Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Mousavi Candidacy

After previously indicating he would not, Mir Husayn Mousavi, Iran's prime minister during the 1980's, has announced his presidential campaign. This is being reported in American media primarily as dividing the reformist camp. His candidacy, however, actually shows the limits of the reformist/conservative divide for understanding Iranian politics.

As much as Iranians like philosopher-presidents, the most important issue for most Iranians this summer will be the economy. Of the other two "reformist" candidates, former President Muhammad Khatami has not, to my knowledge, substantially addressed it, while Mehdi Karrubi, who finished third in the first round of voting in 2005, has campaigned on cutting checks directly to Iranians from the country's oil wealth. Mousavi, who opened the door for Khatami in 1997 by declining attempts by the reformist to recruit him as their candidate, is best known for keeping the economy strong during the Iran-Iraq War, and will be seen as a credible figure as he wages a campaign this time combining reformist ideals with the economic populism that served as Ahmadinejad's meal ticket to office.

In any case, Mousavi's entry may lead Khatami to simply withdraw from the race. He first entered on the understanding Musavi would not run, and because of his failures promoting the reformist agenda during his 1997-2005 presidency, some reformist leaders are looking to other candidates.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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