The political scene in Iran is quickly approaching a crossroads. With Presidential elections scheduled for this June, it is clear that current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be elected for a third term due to constitutional restrictions. Yet in the face of much opposition, Ahmadinejad doesn’t seem to be convinced that he will relinquish power once polls are closed. In September, Saeed Kamali Dehghan wrote an article highlighting a, “Recent interview on state television in which a journalist mentioned that his presidency would finish within a year, the president interjected, laughing: "How do you know?" (Dehghan 2012) This statement raised many Iranian eyebrows, and revealed Ahmedinejad’s Putin-esque plans to groom a puppet leader from his corner in order to retain a level of control. While Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported Ahmadinejad in the controversial 2009 elections, the two haven’t seen eye to eye of late. Thus, Ayatollah Khamenei will most likely use the June election to place his own candidate in office (The Economist 2013).
Talks between the United States and Iran regarding the development of a nuclear program have stalled of late (The Economist 2013). According to Alex Vatanka of Middle East Institute, Ayatollah Khamenei, “Pledged that no amount of international pressure would force Iran to give up its cherished nuclear program and self-confidently declared that the United States and the West were not in a position to act militarily against his country” (Vatanka 2012). Therefore, these elections may represent an opportunity for a newly harvested relationship between a new Iranian leader and the U.S. right? Well, not exactly. It is almost certain that the elections will fall in the manner that the supreme leader Khamenei desires, which clearly doesn’t bode well for discussion. Yet as Vatanka highlights, the political situation in Iran is “more fluid” than what one may traditionally expect in an authoritarian regime (ibid.). With many different factions among the political elite, there may be room for both political and social uprising if the June election brings more controversy. For this reason, any and all parties that are invested in Middle Eastern politics should be strongly attached to following the Iranian elections.
Protests erupted in Tehran in 2009 when Ahmadinejad’s sham election results were revealed. Yet, the protests didn’t gain enough momentum to make any real impact. Khamenei shouldn’t rest easy just yet though as it is clear that small protests can quickly grow, as has been witnessed in many other Middle Eastern countries during the Arab Spring. With the growth of social media use, the cost of recruitment for social movements has drastically decreased. If Ayatollah Khamenei isn’t careful with the manner in which he rigs the June elections, he may have much larger problems on his hands than Ahmadinejad lead opposition factions or U.S. sanctions.
For those of you who didn’t get utter enjoyment out of this blog post, perhaps this can help.
Dehghan, Saeed Kamali. "Who will succeed Ahmadinejad in Iran's presidential election next year?." Guardian. 7 Sep 2012: n. page. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2012/sep/07/ahmadinejad-iran-presidential-election>.
"Iran’s coming presidential election." The Economist. 2 Feb 2013: n. page. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21571135-time-ali-khamenei-determined-put-one-his-own-charge-make-no>.
"Nuclear diplomacy and Iran: Where’s the deal?." The Economist. 2 Feb 2013: n. page. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21571142-even-if-direct-negotiations-between-united-states-and-iran-ensue-few-predict>.
Vatanka, Alex. "Khamenei and Iran's 2013 elections."Middle East Institute. 21 Sep 2012: n. page. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. <http://www.mei.edu/content/khamenei-and-irans-2013-elections>.