Thursday, May 21, 2009

Iranian Candidate Bases

Muhammad Sahimi has another good Iranian election piece, this one on the candidates' social and institution bases:
"Mr. Rezaee does not have an independent base of support among the population. He has always been in the conservative camp. If he attracts any significant vote, it would be from within the conservative camp and, therefore, would only hurt Mr. Ahmadinejad, not the two reformist candidates.

"As described in Part III, all the known established reformist and democratic groups in Iran, except for the National Trust Party of Mr. Karroubi, support Mr. Mousavi. Even the Nationalist-Religious Coalition (see Part II) appears to view Mr. Mousavi’s candidacy positively. In addition, Mr. Khatami has fully supported Mr. Mousavi, and has been campaigning for him. Thus, the popular base of support for Mr. Mousavi consists, presumably, of the middle class (including its lower and upper layers), the educated and the professionals. Many believe that Mr. Mousavi may also have a significant (but unexpressed) support among the more moderate conservatives. In an attempt to attract such voters, Mr. Mousavi has sometimes referred to himself as a 'principlist reformist.'

"All the reformists who are unhappy with the slow rate of progress and the more moderate reformist groups, such as the IIPF and the Islamic Revolution Mojahedin Organization (see Part II), support Mr. Karroubi. Interestingly, they are the same people whom Mr. Karroubi used to call the 'radicals,' and was strongly opposed to when he was the Speaker of the 6th Majles. Mr. Karroubi does have support in some provinces, such as Lorestan, and among more conservative and traditional layers of society who are unhappy with the conservatives.

"Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main support base is the poor and uneducated in small towns and villages. In addition, he can count on the votes of some layers of the Basij militia who blindly follow the orders that are given to them, either by their religious leaders, or by their military commanders. But, altogether, they make up at most 15% of eligible voters. Practically speaking, Mr. Ahmadinejad has no base of support in larger cities and towns."

He goes on to say that high turnout is likely to hurt Ahmadinejad, as that would make it less likely vote fraud and intimidation would have an impact and his base is seen as more likely to vote. I'm not sure how true that is; there seems to be a lot of energy around the reformists this time around, as well, in a way there wasn't in 2005 given the weakness of their candidates in that election and the disappointments of the Khatami years.

Mousavi's appeal remains the biggest wild card in this election. In the West he's pegged as a reformist candidate; however, Sahimi goes on to highlight his support from old guard pragmatists associated with former president and 2005 runner-up Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, as well as certain conservative elements. His support, in other words, is broad, but is it deep enough in some combination of sectors to put him over the top? He crosses these boundaries because he's an old hand well-connected across the political landscape and known and trusted by the older generation. What might work against him, however, is that the flip side of this is his association in the minds of Iran's huge youth population with older establishment figures whom, at least in 2005, they saw as discredited.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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