Friday, 12 June 2009
Today Iranians go to the polls in what is probably one of the most interesting political systems in the world. The Islamic Republic's politics is dominated by religion but with a number of candidates presenting a challenge to the incumbent Ahmadinejad the contest is turning into the sort of slagging match we would expect here in the UK.
Originally the contest looked as if it were going to be rather dull when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, seemed to show support for Ahmadinejad and resultantly Muhammad Khatami pulled out. Furthermore the Council of Guardians removed many of the candidates in May. When this occured only three opponents were left standing: Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi on a mildly reformist platform; and Mohsen Rezai of the ultra-conservative wing.
Although it is likely that the reformist candidates will split the protest vote to allow Ahmadinejad back in, the level of interest in Iranian politics is as high as it was in 1979 on the eve of the Iran-Iraq war. However, it is possible that divisions amongst conservatives may lead to a second round run-off against a reformist challenger. In all likeliness the leading opponent is Mousavi and it is certainly true to say that if this is the case, Ahmadinejad will face a tough time of it.
Whatever happens, this election has undermined the once uncriticised Ahmadinejad and led to greater openness in a country which badly needs it.