2009 Iranian Presidential Election: The Fallout
Previously published on July 7, 2009
The 2009 re-election fiasco surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has evoked both charges of voter fraud and massive protests. Under the Ahmadinejad leadership, Iran has used its oil wealth to defy the international community as it pursues a very dangerous and aggressive strategy to assert itself as a world power.
For foreigners, the promise of a pro-Western, pro-American government has been dashed, yet mass protests against the prevailing leadership demonstrates there are strong elements of change within the Middle Eastern nation. On the other hand, those Iranians who were looking for change are left feeling their voices have been silenced, thus they have rallied together against their government's rogue behavior and oppressive actions. Although this election has failed to fulfill the hopes of many people around the world, the aftermath certainly has a silver lining.
Even with President Ahmadinejad holding onto his office, the election, whether legitimate or not, has weakened his power. The outcry from the youth and other supporters of opposition candidates is so great that it cannot be fully satisfied so long as the current leader holds office while any additional moves to crackdown on protestors will only fuel opposition efforts. With the international community clearly facing an opportunity to reform Iran away from its destabilizing behavior of supporting terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, increased foreign support for opposition groups will further weaken Ahmadinejad's ability to lead.
Although the Ahmadinejad government will try to appease the international community by perusing direct talks with the US, lessening its support of terrorists, and, potentially, dismantling parts of its nuclear program, the West now has greater leverage over the Iranian leadership, so moderate elements can come forward to initiate fruitful peace talks and lasting reforms.
Meanwhile, the Ahmadinejad re-election fiasco has also weakened Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's hold on the Iranian people. Not only has his credibility been damaged by supporting what many view to be a now illegitimate president and suppressing the voices of his people, he faces an emboldened uprising that questions the legitimacy of the clerical establishment's rule over Iran.
With protestors feeding movements in favor of liberal reforms, groups pushing for the separation of church and state are only further strengthened by the leadership's strong reaction against protesters. The Supreme Leader may resist change for a little while, but, ultimately, he must distance himself from Ahmadinejad or face a future with his powers severely diminished. In all, even a divine ruler cannot stay in power when a large enough number of his people feel he neglects their interests.
Furthermore, Ahmadinejad's re-election may actually represent a positive development for future moderate leaders. With growing pressure on the current Iranian leadership, the small short-term changes slowly gained through political compromises from the election of a more moderate candidate can be replaced with far-reaching long-term changes that result from eventual political revolt.
Unfortunately, the current main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi is closely associated with former President Billionaire Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose extreme capitalist policies and family's insider business deals hurt the many poor people who support Ahmadinejad's socialist policies. With the American people recovering from the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration, whose policies also allowed the rich to gain at the expense of everyone else and created the global recession, both nations must face similar issues.
This means moderate capitalist leaders, who balance capitalism with socialist elements, can gain the support of the West through capitalist reforms while stripping away Ahmadinejad's supporters.
Moreover, the Obama Administration and other world leaders have gained leverage over the Iranian leadership because of the recent election fiasco that is generating political instability within the Middle Eastern nation. Ironically, the same political stances, which Ahmadinejad used to gain support and world attention by bashing President George W. Bush, has allowed opposition leaders to rally supporters and undermine his leadership.
Meanwhile, the political climate has shifted away from pushing the two nations apart under the Bush 41' Administration to allowing the Obama Administration an opportunity to bring the two people together as the winds of change move against President Ahmadinejad. Although the nuclear issue, Iran's support of terrorism, and its defiant attitude toward the international community means the world needs to work with the current Iranian leadership to build healthier relationships now, the efforts of pro-Western, pro-American elements offer far more hope that Iran can eventually be reformed.