Sunday, July 10, 2011

Iran: Supreme Leader trying to be more supreme

According to Amir Taheri:
[...] "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei, who has had to share power with different presidents and parliaments since 1989, now believes that he is in a position to seize exclusive control.

The split caused within the ruling establishment by the disputed presidential election of 2009 has served Khamenei's ambitions. By decreeing that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election, even before the official publication of the results, Khamenei made it clear that it was he, not the voting public, who chose the president.

Khamenei's move gave Ahmadinejad the presidency but deprived it of much of its legitimacy and authority. In his second-term, Ahmadinejad has been a politically wounded and vulnerable president, a far cry from his first term when he pretended to be the darling of the "poor masses" who had supposedly brought him to power.

Since 2009, Khamenei has used his office to put the focus on "Walayat al-Faqih" or rule by the theologian, a pseudo-religious concoction designed in 1979 to concentrate power in the hands of the late Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini.

However, Khamenei has not been satisfied even with that. He has encouraged his cronies to launch the idea of "Walayat al-Faqih al-mutlaqah" or "Absolute rule by the theologian." [...]
Taheri thinks, however, that Mr. Supreme might be over-reaching:
Khamenei's aim is to produce a Majlis controlled exclusively by his own faction. This means depriving factions linked to Rafsanjani and Khatami of the 100 or so seats they hold in the 290-seat Majlis.

Attempts by Khatami and Rafsanjani to prevent a total purge of their factions by seeking a deal with Khamenei appear to have failed. [...]

Having robbed Ahmadinejad of legitimacy, Khamenei then moved to deprive the president of constitutional power. The "Supreme Guide" vetoed the president's choices of ministers and publicly ordered him to drop some of his key policies.

Worse still, a number of Ahmadinejad's close associates, friends and family members have been sent to prison on dubious charges of "spreading wrong beliefs" and "corrupt practices."

Years ago, Khatami had complained that, in the Khomeinist system, the president was no more than an "operative." Now, Khamenei is trying to reduce the president to a mere puppet.

Ahmadinejad, however, is no Khatami and might not agree to go down without a fight. [...]
Taheri could be right, but it sounds as if he is looking on the bright side. Iran is obviously progressing in a more straightforwardly dictatorial direction. Taheri thinks that "the elephant in the room" is that "the Iranian people . . . might not welcome the imposition of absolutism at a time that the rest of the Middle East is moving towards pluralism." We'll see.

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