Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iran: On the Brink of Another Revolution?

The instability in Iran could worsen over the next couple of days and become something short of revolution if the mandate of the people is not upheld. The mandate of the people is hard to decipher because it seems as though there are as many protesters for the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as there are for the opposition Mir Hossain Moussavi. Currently, the situation in Iran is very tense and has been marked by several violent and non-violent protests resulting in a number of casualties. The marches in Iran were precipitated by what many viewed as a rigged election. Going into the election Moussavi was the favored candidate in a country hungry for reform and economic change. The reform movement was spear-headed by the youth of the country who make up 60% of the population in Iran.

Iran's voting system is different from that in the United States and other western countries where electronic ballot boxes are used. In Iran, paper ballots that have to be counted individually are used instead. In an election that brought out several millions to the polls, the result of the election was announced two hours after the polls closed and the incumbent Ahmadinejad was declared the new Prime Minister of Iran. Ahmadinejad did not only win most major battlegrounds in the election, but he also won the popular vote in Moussavi's hometown of ethnic Azeri Turks. Previously, the electoral commission had announced that the vote count would require several days, so it came as a shock when the results were announced the same day as the elections.

Ahmadinejad, is no stranger to politics nor the international stage. He was previously mayor of Tehran and was catapulted to world prominence as a result of his anti-Semitic views and nuclear weapons program. Ahmadinejad however is in a favored position, because unlike his opponent he has the support of the Supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council as well. Khamenei who is the supreme authority in Iran came into power in 1989 following the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khomeini came to power after the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s that deposed the United States backed Shah of Iran.

The Iranian Revolution of the 1970s also known as the Islamic Revolution was precipitated by several events. The primary event that drove the Revolution was the fear that that Shah of Iran in response to a western influence was turning Iran to a completely secular nation. In an attempt to preserve whatever relics of Islam were left, the Ayatollah organized a coup that seized power and installed an Islamic regime while the Shah was away from the country. The new Islamic regime rewrote the Constitution of Iran and remains the chief governing body of Iran along with the Guardian Council, a group of men appointed by the Supreme leader.

Khamenei and the Guardian Council are the authority responsible for the vote recount. This is were an impasse will be reached because it is quite unlikely that the Ayatollah will decide on a ruling in favor of Moussavi. Although Ahmadinejad has several supporters, Moussavi also has about a comparable number most of whom are young people who are beginning to view the Islamists who govern the nation as more of a liability than an asset. Most young people are burdened by the heavy handedness of Shari'a Law and the economic crisis in the country. Real estate and other commodities have become almost completely unaffordable and Ahmadinejad's priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

The next few days in Iran might be extremely volatile and the country could break out in a revolution that might decide the future of the Iranian people. The role of the international community and of the United States will become clearer in the coming days. What role if any will Russia play in the events and will true reform come to Iran finally?

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