Iran elections: Towards an ‘Islamic government’


Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sees the June 18 presidential election as an opportunity to realize his vision for the country’s future.

Of the 529 people registered to participate in Iran’s June 18 presidential election, only seven have received permission from the Guardian Council.

The Guardian Council is responsible for scrutinizing candidates and deciding who to run in most elections in Iran. It consists of six Islamic jurists, who are appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six lawyers, nominated by the head of the judiciary and elected by parliament.

Candidates barred from running for the Guardian Council in the upcoming election include Ali Larijani, former spokesman for the Iranian parliament, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and current Vice President Ishaq Jahangiri.

Of the seven candidates approved by the council, five are radicals: Ayatollah Ibrahim Raisi, the head of the judiciary; Saeed Jalili, former Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and nuclear negotiator; Mohsin Rezai, Secretary of the Expediency Council, former head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); and MPs Alireza Zakani and Amirhossein Qazizadeh-Hashmi.

The other two candidates who will be on the ballot on June 18 are Abdolnasar Hemmati, a technocrat and former governor of the Central Bank of Iran, and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, the head of Iran’s National Sports Organization and former governor of Isfahan.

Ayatollah Ibrahim Raisi is the main contender among these seven candidates. Many Iran observers expect him to not only be elected as Iran’s next president, but eventually to become the country’s next supreme leader.

The Guardian Council has been carefully engineering elections for decades to produce results acceptable to Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Nevertheless, the council’s decision to bar a large number of prominent and objectively qualified candidates from running in the upcoming election was still unprecedented.

The council increased the level of control over the candidate list because the Iranian establishment believes the Islamic Republic is currently at a critical juncture and, as a close ally of Khamenei, Mehdi Tayyab said recently, “Pure Need to do “revolution”.

To understand what he meant by “purifying revolution”, we need to look at Khamenei’s political ideology.

In the late 1990s, Khamenei outlined five essential stages of a successful Islamic revolution. The first stage is the Islamic revolution itself. The second stage is the establishment of an Islamic regime, which should be followed by the establishment of an Islamic government. The fourth stage is the establishment of an Islamic society, which, they say, will pave the way for the establishment of an Islamic civilization – one that can serve as a model and leader for all Muslim-majority countries around the world.

According to Khamenei, the first two episodes of this series have been completed with the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the formation of the Islamic Republic. But Iran has yet to complete the third link: the establishment of an “Islamic government”.

Therefore, at present, Khamenei’s major political goal is to ensure that the country is led by a truly Islamic government that is loyal to him and his vision for the country.

To achieve this goal, he published a manifesto in 2019, and has since been working to rejuvenate the regime and create optimal conditions for the establishment of an “Islamic government”. He stocked unelected but highly politically influential positions in the armed forces, the judiciary, religious organizations and the media with young and loyal hardliners. With the help of the Guardian Council, he filled the Iranian parliament with his young and enthusiastic supporters in the 2020 parliamentary election.

So next month’s presidential election is the final step in Khamenei’s efforts to establish an ideal “Islamic government”.

Khamenei was elected as the Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989. Since then, he has worked with four administrations: the Rafsanjani Administration (1989–1996), the Khatami Administration (1997–2004), the Ahmadinejad Administration (2005–2013) and the Rouhani Administration (2013–2020).

Of these four governments, the one closest to Khamenei’s ideal of “Islamic government” was that of Ahmadinejad – at least during his first term in power. Ahmadinejad worked amicably with the Supreme Leader between 2005 and 2009, but the two eventually parted ways during his second term as president due to a political power struggle.

The Supreme Leader is now working to ensure the establishment of a new administration that will follow the same policies and strategies as Ahmadinejad, but will remain loyal and subordinate to the Supreme Leader until the end.

And, in fact, Raisi’s election campaign for the leading candidate is being run by veterans of the Ahmadinejad administration, such as Ali Nikzad, who served as Minister of Transport and Housing under Ahmadinejad between 2009–2011, and Reza Tagipur, who served as his was the Minister of Communications. between 2009-2012.

As was the case during Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the political appointees of the future Raisi administration also come from the most conservative sections of Iranian society, and in particular from the IRGC and the oppressed Basij organization, the paramilitary group working for the IRGC.

The IRGC and Basij are not only home to the most ardent supporters of the Islamic Revolution and its ideals, but they also serve as the largest and most influential support base for the Supreme Leader.

If Khamenei succeeds in guaranteeing the formation of a new administration that will fill politically relevant positions in the country with staunch members of the IRGC and Basij, there will never be a gap between the Iranian government and the Iranian “deep state” controlled by the Supreme Court. Even the gap leader that is closed will eventually disappear. Such an administration, in Khamenei’s view, would actually represent an “Islamic government” and would be more successful in implementing policies that would advance the goals of the revolution.

According to Khamenei, once established, an Islamic government would work to complete the Islamization of Iranian society – the fourth phase of the Supreme Leader’s long-term plan.

Since the revolution in 1979, Iranian society has experienced two waves of Islamization – the first beginning with the closure of universities in 1980 and the second, in 2005, with the election of Ahmadinejad as president. If an “Islamic government” loyal to the supreme leader forms as expected on June 18, Iran will undoubtedly see a third wave of Islamization.

As seen during the first two waves, the third wave of Islamization in Iran is likely to have three primary manifestations: a greater incorporation of Islamic culture and values ​​into daily and political life, a more powerful fight against Western influences on Iranian society. , and an increase in the supreme leader’s influence and control over all social and political groups in the country.

To achieve this, the new administration will have to use force, as the ideals and ambitions of the ruling regime are not shared by large sections of the Iranian population today. The new administration will repress those in Iran who try to resist the regime’s restrictions on their lives and increase pressure on youth and women – the main two groups challenging the regime’s authority.

In terms of foreign policy, a new “Islamic government” would work to achieve all of the Islamic Republic’s long-term goals, such as increasing Iran’s influence on the region and exporting the Islamic Revolution to other countries by supporting terrorist groups. .

If the new government includes several members of the IRGC and Basij, as was expected, cooperation between the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the IRGC will also be strengthened, allowing the country to more efficiently pursue its foreign policy agenda.

Anti-Americanism will also be a defining feature of any future “Islamic government” backed by Khamenei.

Anti-Americanism is at the core of the Iranian regime and the identity of the Supreme Leader. So any new government backed by a Supreme Leader will continue to oppose the US and its allies while moving closer to Russia and China. Better relations with African and South American countries will also be a priority for the new administration for political and economic reasons.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 82, wants his rule and ideals to keep him alive. Not only does he want the spirit of the 1979 revolution to survive, but that Iran eventually becomes an Islamic power and a leader of the Muslim world. Only time will tell whether the Supreme Leader will be successful in overseeing the formation of an ideal Islamic government that is critical to the success of his long-term political agenda. But for now, it looks like Khamenei is well prepared to move on to the next phase of his revolutionary plan.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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