Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blaming the ol' Scapegoat

 With his end in sight, it seems Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s good standing has expired among other regime leaders.  According to The New York Times, politicians and clerics alike have begun openly badmouthing their country’s president as the limit of his rule approaches.  State run media outlets have also take up the charge, publishing reports blaming Ahmadinejad for the country’s economic downturn and claiming it is not a result of international sanctions.  While Ahmadinejad has reached his presidential term limit, he has been grooming a protégé in Putinesque fashion: Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.  Iran’s government is such that those who hold the real power are never in a position to face an election and it seems they’ve tired of Ahmadinejad’s antics preclude Mashaei’s presidential chances as well.

This recent overt outcry against the Iranian president reflects what Timur Kuran called preference falsification in his piece Sparks and Prairie Fires.  It would appear that now that Iran’s theocratical regime has openly dismissed Ahmedinejad, others are voicing their true opinions of the impoverished leader as well.  It could also be the case that these people are simply voicing a second set of false opinions more in line with those in power.

It goes without saying that Ahmadidejad often appeared more like a fanatical mad man than a head of state; however, he is far from responsible for Iran’s current state of affairs.  International sanctions and Iranian oil boycotts have taken their toll despite what any state run media may claim.  The root cause of these problems is in the Ayatollah’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the fact that the rest of the world does not tolerate this.  The Iranian presidency and parliament have always acted as a political buffer between the people and the Supreme Leader.  At this point it seems Ahmadinejad is more useful to the Ayatollah as a scapegoat than a figurehead.

Erdbrink, T. (2013, April 30). As election in iran nears, ahmadinejad’s critics are piling on. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Kuran, Timur. (1989). Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution. Public Choice 61, no. 1 (April): 41–74.

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  1. This article is very interesting and I am surprised that Iran calls there leader a president when they dont have to face election and they choose their own successor. I am not sure why the president cares about the bad talking about him if his term is almost up. It is nice to know that at least the people of Iran are voicing their disgust with him and causing him to fall out of favor beside the fact that people wont get to choose their next leader as the current president already chose him. What I got from this article though is a unfavorable president is receiving bad press because of his madness and stupid actions, but in the end the problems he caused the country cannot be redeemed by getting rid of him because somebody just like him is guaranteed to rule next. Because of leadership and tactics like this that Iran employs, they keep digging themselves in a deeper hole and while people have made their anger over government public, it will not change anything and possibly make people feel more helpless. The people voice their concerns for their country but their opinions while maybe exaggerated or false are not helping anything.

  2. I don't agree with calling the president a scapegoat as the information presented shows him as the cause of problems for Iran.

  3. I think the president is in some ways responsible for Iran's problems. His radical behavior and statements, such as remarks he has made in regard to Israel, have left international actors such as the U.S. with little desire to find true agreement and peace with Iran. Although in many ways he was conveying tAyatollah's perspectives, he has also projected his personal image to be a mad man with poor leadership. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons as well as their isolationist nature has lead to conflict with many Western nations. We shall see if a change in the presidency reveals what the true causes of Iran's problems are, whether it be sanctions and oil boycotts, or Ahmadinejad as an individual.

  4. I think you are exactly right about the issue of preference falsification as I am sure much more of the population has privately held beliefs regarding Ahmadinejad's behavior while in office, as well as his undying pursuit of nuclear weapons. He constantly deviates from and disregards the international community as well as Western concerns. If change is not implemented and power transferred, the population may grow more discontent and potentially materialize in an uprising or protests. Scapegoat or not I believe Iranians expressing dissatisfaction is an indicator of another potential Iranian revolution. This topic is something that will put Iran on the international radar for yet another reason, perhaps one the West would actually like to see play out.

  5. I think that preference falsification could be involved in the changing situation in Iran but I also believe that the public at-large is viewing Ahmadidejad as a lame duck and beginning to criticize him in order to gain favor with the political elites that actually control the country.

  6. Ahmadinejad is most certainly on the butt end of a scapegoating campaign, but he is also very much a dictator--albeit of a different twinge. Khamenei is what can be considered an "islamist" dictator whereas Ahmadinejad is more of a "nationalist" model. Though both are conservative, their ideologies have come to a head over the last several years.

    As far as the ideas of preference falsification are concerned, I think that Iranian voters are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They do not have a large semblance of a "choice" between Ahmadinejad or Khamenei, but Ahmadinejad may actually be gaining more popular support as he has actually been seeking to work with the West under the negotiation table to gain popular support in preparation for a campaign of opposition to the Supreme Leader. Beyond that, he has threatened to make an explosive exit from the presidency should his "protege" be forcefully excluded from elections by the Supreme Leader's "Guardian Council," which is responsible for deciding who is allowed to run in the presidential elections.

    The time between May 11 and the elections in mid June will be very telling. Ahmadinejad may remain cool and composed and quietly step down, but more and more signs are emerging that seem to point to him going out with a bang. Should that happen, the already precariously balanced Iranian regime may topple. Time will tell.