A fellow blogger ( a fancy way of saying “my mate Omer”) wrote a post on elections earlier in the year. In it he highlighted Iran as the most volatile political entity of the current era. This is probably the most accurate description of the Irani state that I have come across in recent years, and with the state elections just around the corner, I wanted to write something about how things have unfolded since candidates for Iran’s presidency were chosen and how this only magnifies the power of the supreme leader. Now before I go any further, I just want to highlight that I know very little about Irani politics. I’ve read around the 2013 elections but that is basically the extent of my knowledge. I’m writing out of both concern and relief that Iran more than likely won’t receive a repeat of their current conundrum.
“Iran represents the most volatile and potentially devastating international relations conundrum of this generation” – Omer Hamid
Over the course of the last few months, Iran’s guardian council has narrowed down the list of 680 candidates that had announced their running to a list of 6. The clear surprise being that two lead candidates – former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the current president’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei – were not short listed and disqualified from running. Of course, Ahmedinijad was bound to contest this, once quoted as stating “Mashaei means Ahmedinijad and Ahmedinijad means Mashaei.” From this, it is clear that the supreme leader and the guardian council do not want another Ahmedinijad, which is essentially what they would have gotten with Mashaei. Barred for being part of the “deviant current” seeking to undermine Iran’s Islamic system, I don’t see Mashaei getting anywhere near Irani presidency anytime soon. Although Supreme Leader Khamenei has overruled the decisions of the Guardian Council in the past, it appears that he wants to reserve the election for “loyal conservatives.”
The 6 candidates cleared for presidential candidacy are all hardline conservatives with strong links to both the supreme leader and Iran’s ruling clerics. It is clear from this that Iran’s supreme ruling body want a president who will remain loyal and place decisions of the Guardian Council above all else. This highlights the secondary nature of presidency in Iran. Iran is one of the only countries in the world where the president does not maintain control of the armed forces, nor is he the final decision maker. This is due to the fact that the supreme leader rules by Wilyat-al-faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), which essentially means he is given guardianship of the people by divine right. In theory, this means that nothing can stop the supreme leader.
However, that being said, the president can and has been shown to have some influence over foreign policy. Former president Khatami maintained open relations with the West and even agreed to give full access to nuclear sites to the UN. President Ahmedinijad on the other hand placed a great strain on Iran’s relations with the West, indicating different presidential policies under the same supreme leader. It is therefore quite fortunate that 3 of the candidates for presidency are drawn from Iran’s foreign policy divisions, including Saeed Jallili, the man responsible for international negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
So with the barring of Ahmedinjad and his close allys from the presidential race, the direction that Iran’s ruling body wishes to head is quite clear. An ideal situation includes a president who will not work against the supreme leader whilst at the same time trying to improve Iran’s otherwise flagging foreign policy with the West. The president still maintains some powers though, acting as a broker for diplomacy and being able to fill positions of authority to strengthen their stance in parliament being but a few of those abilities. When this is placed in the context of a Guardian Council “yes man” however, I really don’t know what to think. What I do know is, that if things had been different, and Mashaei had been cleared to run…well, the cartoon below pretty much sums it up.
Til Next Time