The last week has seen a veritable flood of support on Twitter for the Iranian presidential election protests occurring in Iran. In brief, the incumbent president, Ahmadinejad defeated his opponent, Mousavi, by a very large margin (63% to 33%). Many people have claimed that the election was rigged, and that the process was corrupt, sparking large and heated protests in Tehran, the capitol of Iran. Ahmadinejad has been a very controversial figure here in the West, having denied the holocaust, expressed wishes for the destruction of Israel, pushed forward with a nuclear program that most of the world believes to be for weapon development, trampled human rights, and more. His opponent, Mousavi, is being hailed as a revolutionary reformist, who wishes to modernize and Westernize the country, bringing freedoms to the people. I’ll speak to his personality momentarily. My first topic is the huge support he is receiving after his “loss” in the presidential elections.
Many people are supporting the protesters in their attempts to overturn Ahmadinejad’s re-election and expose election rigging. Exposing election rigging and government corruption is admirable, but those who believe Mousavi will be able to bring instant change and freedom to Iran are sadly mistaken. The government of Iran has a very complex structure, with unbalanced power. Here is a flowchart of the government’s power structure:
The electorate (all people over 15 years old) votes for the President, members of Parliament, and the Assembly of Experts. The President chooses the members of the Cabinet, and they must be approved by Parliament. The Guardian Council consists of twelve members. Six theologians are appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six jurists are nominated by the judiciary and approved by Parliament. The Guardian Council has the ability to veto any candidate for President, Parliament, and the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly of Experts is the body that appoints the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is the top of Iran’s political power structure. He appoints the head of the judiciary, six members of the Guardian Council, the commanders of all of the armed forces, and the heads of radio and tv broadcasting. He also confirms the president’s election.
The Guardian Council must approve all bills passed by parliament and can veto them if they consider them to be against the constitution or Islamic law. The members are appointed by the Supreme Leader and the Head of the Judiciary (who is, himself, appointed by the Supreme Leader). It is a council that can easily be said to be fully appointed by the Supreme Leader himself. It is a very powerful tool in the hands of the Supreme Leader, as it can veto any candidate for elected institutions, giving the Supreme Leader his own choice of candidates, leading to his own choice of elected officials.
Perhaps this makes it a bit more clear why the presidential elections in Iran are not what people should be outraged about. Perhaps the outrage should be directed at the structure itself, and its clearly unbalanced nature. The president is not in control of the country. The Supreme Leader is. Swapping one president for another changes very little.
My second topic is the “revolutionary reformist” himself, Mousavi. Many people have forgotten, or have chosen to forget, that Mousavi served as Prime Minister (while the post still existed) in the 1980s. He severed ties with Great Britain when they refused to disavow Salman Rushdie (writer of The Satanic Verses, which resulted in a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini, calling for Rushdie’s death). He was a member of the leadership council for Hezbollah when it was created in 1982 (hey, I was born in 1982!). Mousavi, while he does deny the holocaust, refuses to recognize Israel’s sovereignty. He defended the seizure of over 50 American hostages at the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979. Since the position of Prime Minister was dispelled, he has served as an advisor to the Supreme Leader, as well as a member of the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, which monitors artistic expression.
With such a record, how can his current claims for reform be taken seriously? He has been one of the strongest supporters of the very things he now claims to be against.
This is far from a full in-depth examination of the Iranian political system and its participants, but perhaps it will shed a little light on the situation for those who don’t know much about it. Just remember, who the president is doesn’t matter as much as who the Supreme Leader is. The only solution at this point is a full revolution. The theocracy must be overthrown completely for any meaningful or lasting change to occur. Anything less is pointless and ineffective.
-Because I said so