Progressives urge unity against Iranian coup

News Analysis

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative mayor of Tehran, was declared the winner of the second round of Iran’s presidential election on June 27.

Iran’s clerical establishment left no stone unturned in its bid to see Ahmadinejad emerge as the sixth president of the Islamic Republic. While it was surprising enough that Ahmadinejad reached the runoff, the fact that he overtook Hashemi Rafsanjani, the candidate favored by the U.S. and its European allies, raised many eyebrows.

Many analysts have referred to the election results as a “nightmare scenario” for the region, which has suffered two full-scale wars in recent years and is currently the target of the U.S. “Greater Middle East Plan.”

Ahmadinejad is closely allied with the conservative religious forces gathered around the Supreme Religious Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who are attempting to consolidate their power by regaining control of the government. The victory gives conservatives control of the country’s two highest elected bodies — the presidency and the Parliament.

In his victory speech, Ahmadinejad said his ambition was to make Iran a “powerful and Islamic” model for the world. His fundamentalist leanings have a menacing edge: The new president and some of his close associates have been implicated in attempts to assassinate leaders of the progressive political opposition abroad.

The Tudeh (People’s) Party of Iran referred to the election result as a “serious threat against society, requiring sensitivity and vigilance in dealing with it.”

Ahmadinejad’s election was made possible as a result of several factors, including massive vote rigging in the first round, a seriously flawed and deeply undemocratic electoral system, dissatisfaction of the country’s poor with the economic policies pursued by the pro-reform government of Mohammed Khatami since 1997 and, most important, disunity in the ranks of the pro-reform opposition forces.

The three candidates associated with the reform movement together polled more than 10 million votes in the first round, which, had they all gone to Mostafa Moin, the main reform candidate, would have placed him in the runoff despite the huge voting falsification in favor of Ahmadinejad.

The extent of vote rigging in both rounds of the election was unprecedented, and showed how desperate the regime was to regain control of the presidency. A high-ranking official of the Interior Ministry responsible for conducting the elections said that in no other election since the 1979 revolution had such widespread vote rigging been experienced.

Rafsanjani, a prominent leader of the regime whose bid for the presidency was foiled by the hard-line fundamentalists, said, “My opponents used all means within the ruling establishment and facilities of the regime in an organized and illegal way to intervene in elections and damage my credibility.”

In a June 25 statement, the Tudeh Party called on the country’s democratic forces to unite in an anti-dictatorial front to resist the regime’s “electoral coup d’état.” The party said any vacillation or compromise could mean disaster for the future of Iran.

Navid Shomali is a correspondent for the Tudeh Party of Iran.