Somewhere between the tufts of blonde hair that creep out of the Hijab at one of Mir Hossein Mousavi’s political rallies and the chador that covers other Iranian women from head to toe at a rally for the victorious Ahmadinejad, we can summarize the non-fundamental differences between the Iranian presidential candidates.
In reality, it is a conflict between a hard-line religious current and one that is less hard-line; between Ahmadinejad’s highly intensified ideology and Khatami’s less intense ideology.
They have all been fed the morals of the Iranian revolution and its Khomeinist features. They have fought for it and because of it, and nobody wants an alternative; they seek to spread its ideology to other countries and villages. They all want Iran to be the most powerful state in the region, and the most influential, and to have the most key political players of our inflamed region. They all want Iran to play a role and stick its nose into other countries’ affairs. They all want to frighten regional states with the nuclear scarecrow.
In other words, the regime’s selection of presidential candidates makes it impossible for somebody to take part in the competition unless that person has an acceptable amount of absolute loyalty to the revolution. This is why the filtering process reduced the number of presidential candidates from 400 to four.
Iran has experienced the leadership of a reformist president such as former president Mohammed Khatami as well as conservative presidents, most prominently Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, neither the Iranians nor the non-Iranians felt that there was a difference between members of the two currents. Under the leadership of reformists or conservatives, human rights records have been appalling, and the abuse of ethnic and religious minorities is a feature of both conservative and the reformist leadership. There are also political detentions, assassinations of opposing figures for political or doctrinal reasons, cases of torture and overcrowded prisons.
Interference in Muslim countries and unrest will not end unless the US Republican Party’s policy differs to the Democratic Party’s policy with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
It is true that the conservatives in Iran are more offensive than the reformists; Ahmadinejad was clever to cover up his economic failures by doubting the Holocaust and threatening to wipe Israel off the map. The US is reassuring Israel that Iran will not harm it, whereas the reformists are more patient and farsighted. Apart from that, the reformist and the conservative trains are heading towards the same station and the protest that we have witnessed thus far will reflect nothing but the speed of the train and the kind of fuel on which it runs.
At first, the fight for presidency in Iran was quite fascinating as there was a real competition between effective candidates; real and exciting televised debates; a record turnout and unpredictable results until the very last moment. The final results for the victorious president were reasonable, as they were certainly unlike the famous Arab 99 per cent [that Arab presidents sometimes claim to win in elections]. But this is all merely the weak façade of a distorted democracy.
Many supporters of the Iranian revolution would say that Arab countries could not have a presidential election like the recent one in Iran. That is true but it is also the case that Arab countries know that if they were to hold presidential elections, this would just be a formality and for the media. We should not be surprised at the negative human rights records that Arabs states have.
But in the case of Iran, by conducting these presidential elections, it seeks to conceal the negative way in which it dealt with the political opposition and ethnic and ideological minorities. It is naïve to sum up democracy by presidential elections where the competing parties are two sides of the same ideological coin.