February 25, 2016


Even hardliners want reform : A backlash is taking place against conservatism (The Economist, Feb 27th 2016)

IRAN'S holiest city, and also its second-largest, has long been a conservative bastion. In parliamentary elections in 2012 Iran's most right-wing party, the Paydari or Stability Front, won all of Mashhad's five seats. In local elections the year after it won an outright majority and left the reformists with none. But after the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions, reformists backed by the city's businessmen are attracting packed audiences to their hustings for elections due on 26th February. The conservatives may have expanded the complex around the shrine of Reza, Shia's eighth imam, but only the reformists can attract the foreign investment the city needs to fill it.

Their demands include a new railway to halve the time of travelling the 900 kilometres (560 miles) from Mashhad west to Tehran, the capital; highways designed to turn the city into Central Asia's conduit to the Middle East; and leisure centres to diversify a rigidly spiritual form of tourism. Some suggest promoting the city not just as Imam Reza's burial place, but also Harun al-Rashid's, the eighth century caliph who presided over the golden age of Sunni Islam. "We have to replace the anti-Westerners," says a businessman who says the conservatives blocked his joint venture with an Italian company, worth €400m ($440m), for a theme park.

Posted by at February 25, 2016 4:02 PM