August 1, 2005


Ahmadinejad: The second Rajai (Mahan Abedin, 8/02/05, Asia Times)

[Mahmud] Ahmadinejad consciously linked his electoral campaign to that of Mohammad Ali Rajai, a former Iranian president who was killed in a bombing in August 1981, claimed by the terrorist Mujahideen e-Khalq. This symbolism is acutely important, for two reasons. First, the slain Rajai was the last non-clerical president of the Islamic republic, and second, Rajai is the working-class hero of the Iranian revolution. Indeed, his pictures still proliferate in Iranian cities and his words and memory are regularly invoked by government officials and others who are anxious to maintain the emotional and ideological ties between the Islamic republic and the poor and disadvantaged classes.

Rajai is not only a hero of the Iranian revolution; his memory represents an alternative course of development for the revolution. Had he not been killed, Iran would likely have looked very different today. It was Rajai's murder, alongside those of former prime minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar and countless other officials killed in the period 1981-1982, that profoundly radicalized the Islamic republic and forced it to crack down decisively on all forms of dissent, armed or otherwise. It also consolidated power in the hands of a narrow circle of clerics; in short, the killing of Rajai is directly linked to the empowerment of the theocratic element of the Islamic republic. [...]

Ahmadinejad has been propelled into the presidency by a substantial rural and urban working-class constituency that wants to take its rulers and the middle classes into account. This revival of the Iranian revolution and its egalitarian spirit will inevitably create tremendous energies that could potentially make Ahmadinejad's victory the most consequential event in Iran since 1979. Far from being the favorite of the clerical establishment, Ahmadinejad is in fact their most serious adversary to date, particularly since his revolutionary credentials are impeccable.

So long as Iran remains democratic its rulers will have to reform, at whatever pace.

Iran's People's President (Lee Harris, 8/02/05, Tech Central Station)

Yet, merely because Ahmadinejad does not represent our idea of what democracy should be, it would be a terrible and potentially tragic error for the West to look upon his victory as if it said nothing significant about the nature of democracy. In fact, if you wish to find an example of a genuine democratic revolution -- in the original meaning of this word -- then you could do no better than look at the election results in Iran.

Ahmadinejad's triumph came about for one big reason: The marginalized and the excluded classes of Iranian society loved him; they saw in him one of their own -- a man of the people who felt in his guts what the people feel in theirs; who shared their hate and their loves, their passions and their antipathies.

Ahmadinejad emerged triumphant because he came across as a champion of those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale -- the champion, in short, of the People -- and this undisputed demographic fact should give us pause before we declare that the Ahmadinejad election was not "democratic." On the contrary, his landslide win is a classical illustration of a democratic revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 1, 2005 8:37 PM

Harris is usually pretty good. But here he falls into the same trap that the NYTimes fell into: trying to extract meaning from a rigged event.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 3, 2005 12:16 AM