Sunday, June 19, 2005

Buying Pistachios from Rafsanjan in California - Way for Iran to Move Forward?

And today (on Saturday, it is still Saturday night) I spent most of my time wandering around the house doing nothing, and then went to Target with Em and discussed the Iranian elections with him all evening. Well, the results are out, in incredibly short time I must say, and it is a hardliner against another now being charitably described as a pragmatic conservative.

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is the current mayor of Tehran, a very different political character from the former mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi. His position as the candidate with the second-highest votes have surprised many, given his relative obscurity compared to the the others in the race. For many liberal Iranians it is a disappointment, but it is perhaps a grim indication of the hold of conservative ideology in many parts of the country and the effectiveness of the conservative mobilizing machinery.

The dismal show of the most liberal of all the candidates on offer, Mostafa Moin is also surprising, given that he was predicted to be a front-runner by pre-election polls. Perhaps the disappointment and disillusionment with the inability of the liberals and reformists to push for reforms have been responsible for his rejection by the electorate.

But the man who will probably decide Iran's destiny for the next four years is Hashemi Rafsanjani, President for 8 years in the aftermath of the devastating Iran-Iraq war. Despite his Khomeini association, and socially conservative outlook, there are some positives to him. For one, he has a businessman's perspective, not a bazaari type, but someone with his sights set on greater prizes (dogged by corruption allegations for a while). Hence certainly not averse to the idea of greater economic cooperation with the West, and a more open market oriented economy for Iran. Also, he has clout with the conservatives, hence his ability to pull through reform of any kind is far greater than anything Khatami ever possessed. The man's not much of a war mongerer, and is willing to deal with the West. And certainly the terrifying prospect of Ahmedinejad as President is enough to bring voters by the droves in the second round of voting to elect him to power.

Whatever, the results, let's hope they bring better prospects for Iran and its people. As BBC reporter Gavin Esler says: "But Persian culture is 2,500 years old. Twenty-six years of the Islamic Republic has been a blink of the eye." Indeed.

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