Thursday, June 18, 2009

2004 Majlis Elections: When It All Began?

The other day, I mentioned that I wished I had a copy of Ali Ansari's Iran under Ahmadinejad at hand to see how it read in light of current events. I grabbed a copy in the library Tuesday, and was struck by his account of the 2004 Majlis elections (emphases mine):
"Few could have anticipated the sheer scale of the manipulation that was about to take place during the race for the Majlis, and Europe's subsequent silence in the face of what was a monumental exercise in electoral fraud was to damn them in the eyes of many Iranians...

"Few expected that the reformists would be returned with an extensive majority, and many argued that they would lose their overall majority. But the hardliners who dominated the Guardian Council, the powerful body charged with checking that legislation conforms to Islamic law and with vetting candidates for election, were taking no chances. They barred over 3000 candidates from running, many of them sitting deputies, in a process that took place entirely behind closed doors; barred candidates were not told the reasons for their disqualification, other than a sudden assessment that they were 'un-Islamic'. They also mobilised an enormous election management team of some 40,000 personnel to monitor voting stations. This monitoring was traditionally and indeed legally the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but the Guardian Council contended, with no hint of irony, that the ministry had become politicised and was biased in favor of the reformists. The vetting in particular caused an outcry, and as the reformist leadership, including Khatami, vacillated and prevaricated over what to do, thereby losing what sympathy they might have retained in the electorate, appeals were sent to the Supreme Leader to arbitrate. Khamenei responded by asking the Guardian Council to review the process, which it duly did, restoring no more than a handful of candidates to the list. The Guardian Council calculated that the public was fed up with the internecine squabbling of politicians and would not take to the streets in protest at what one reformist politician called a 'parliamentary coup'.

"It was right."

This marked the rise to prominence of the principlist movement which Ahmadinejad represents. His own election in 2005 took place amidst reformist apathy with the process, and the Council of Guardians actually did try to ban reformists Mehdi Karrubi and Mustafa Mo'in from running. The 2008 Majlis elections were similar to 2004, in that they amounted to a battle between principlists and mainline conservatives. Viewed against this background, a number of the principlists around Ahmadinejad, Khamene'i, and in the IRGC probably felt like they could easily get away with a stolen election in 2009.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



Anonymous Sam said...

Wow... Thanks for that background perspective. As a young student I hated History class, today I am in awe of what can be exposed/interpreted from it.

12:05 PM  

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