Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Blues" and "Reds" in Iran

I have been reading with interest analysis of the forthcoming Iranian elections which suggest to me that Iran has its own version of the red state/blue state divide. Former premier Mirhossein Mousavi is running stronger in the major cities and among the elites--in particular because of his calls for greater integration of Iran with the rest of the world. Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his bases of support in the smaller towns and rural areas that respond to his nationalism and to his attempts to redistribute the economic pie.

This leads me to worry about some of the expectations--because the Iranians that back Mousavi are much more likely to be English speaking and linked to the global information superhighway--while Ahmadinejad supporters, the "sons of the soil", are going to be less represented in media reporting. Will the big city voters be able to overcome the rural vote--we will have to see.

A problem that Mousavi has, however, is that like other politicians who run on platforms of "greater integration" (I'm thinking here, for instance, of the Orange politicians of Ukraine)--it takes two to play. Mousavi hasn't been able to demonstrate that he could facilitate better ties and bring in the investment needed to jump-start economic growth--so I would think for the rural and town vote, if you think the loaf isn't going to get bigger, you'll stick with the incumbent. After the first round of the election is done, it will be interesting to see if we can determine the motivation of voters.

At this point, I can't help but think of Mousavi as the John Kerry of Iran--trying to ride on anti-incumbent dissatisfaction--but perhaps the incumbent has important sources of electoral strength that will propel him to victory despite expectations.

It was During Mousavi's rule that the Iranian Majlis passed a law restricting the candidacy for the Majlis to thos "who are outwardly conform to Islam"; i.e. beards that is a few days old, collarless shirt and no ties.

It was during his rule that the same parliament (or perhaps the next one) passed another law restricting women from studying abroad - even the few ultra-conservative female back benchers loudly protested against this: "You are saying a woman is non-person in Iran.".

While Mr. Mousavi has been a capable war prime minister, it is rather doubtful that he will be what the people of North Tehran expect him to be at age 67.

Note that for all practical purposes, Mr. Ahmadinejad has been campaigning all over Iran for the last 4 years - people know him very well indeed.
Interesting points, anonymous 8:54, especially whether Mousavi is "what the people of North Tehran expect him to be". A case of projecting what you want on the candidate? [Shades of Barack Obama]?
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