Iranian Electorate Responds to Obama

15 June 2009

Tens of thousands of Iranian President Ahmadinezhad's supporters gathered in the centre of the capital Tehran to celebrate his election for a second presidential term and in reaction to rioting by supporters of his nearest rival Mirhoseyn Musavi who claimed the election was rigged.

These demonstrations and protests show that Iran is going through a difficult testing time, involving not just national unity but the regime's ability to stand fast against internal pressures compounded by growing external ones, led by the United States, Israel, and certain Arab 'moderation' countries and aimed at bringing down the regime by undermining its internal base and blockading it externally.

Musavi represented the spearhead of an Iranian reformist trend which sees President Ahmadinezhad's outspoken claims denying the Holocaust and calls to erase Israel from the map, together with his emphasis on Israel's racism and usurpation of the land of Palestine, as isolating Iran internationally and creating powerful enemies.

The most important issue that the "reformists" concentrated on was the Iranian economic recession and the rise in inflation to more than 20 per cent. They called Ahmadinezhad's economic policy a failure and claimed it created higher unemployment among the young.

President Ahmadinezhad rejects the first accusation and admits the second partially and therefore promised in his first speech after his victory in the election to concentrate on economic reform, fight inflation, and deal with the unemployment crisis.

Accusations of rigging in some voting centres might be true but it is unlikely that this rigging was widespread because the difference in the number of votes between the winner and loser is at least more than 12 million. Robert Fisk, the famous British correspondent who covered this election for the British "Independent" newspaper, did not stop for long at this issue in his reports.

It was noticed that the protest demonstrations by the reformist trend's supporters remained limited and confined to some Tehran quarters with some youths taking part in them. This confirms they were elitist and confined to the middle class in particular, a class which cannot in any case be underestimated because it includes strong people with influence, either inside the system like former Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi-Rafasanjani and former parliament Speaker Mehdi Karrubi or outside it and in particular from the merchants and university students sector.

President Ahmadinezhad won the election for several reasons, most notably the support of the Iranian revolution's Supreme Guide Ali Khamene'i and the crushed popular classes in the countryside and outskirts of the big cities. Ahmadinezhad sided with them and concentrated during his first term in office on helping them by offering them loans and financial grants. There is, in addition, his fight against corruption and the corrupt, his extreme modesty, his ascetic life, and his origins from a humble poor family.

His victory with this large percentage of votes is the first response from the Muslim world to US President Barack Obama's speech at Cairo University 10 days earlier which was intended to win the hearts and minds of 1.5 billion Muslims and offer them an olive branch.

The Iranian people wanted to respond to Obama by electing a hard-line president committed to the nuclear programme who works to bolster Iran's nuclear capabilities and does not yield to US and Israeli threats to get rid of this ambitious programme. The Iranians consider this a legitimate right guaranteed by international laws.