Iran’s Elections: A Conversation with M. Ali Kadivar (S. 5, Ep. 36)

Iran holds presidential elections later this week, and Marc Lynch talks with M. Ali Kadivar about what to expect. Kadivar is a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute.

“Ahmadinejad’s era was significant for several reasons, but one reason was that the process started to replace the old guard of the Islamic Republic with a new set of elites,” said Kadivar. “I think Rouhani represents the different strands: one is the old guard again, being back and exerting control. The other is the social support that Rouhani has. A lot of the reformist people who ruled for democratic change now see Rouhani as the most viable candidate that can push forward their agenda.”

“An interesting thing about the conservative candidates is that you see the conservative discourse is very weak in their electoral platforms. They don’t talk about Islamic values or the Western invasion the culture of Iran. Most of what they’re talking is the economic promises,” said Kadivar. “In a way, I can see this election as kind of a defeat for conservative discourse. I think they have realized that to win a presidential election they cannot talk about those things.”

The conservative candidates will “criticize Rouhani for not being able to translate the nuclear agreement to economic gains for peace,” said Kadivar. “So they say, ‘We gave up on our rights. But people are not seeing that in their daily life. They don’t have jobs.”

“On the other hand, Rouhani is saying, ‘I’m the person who has delivered on promises. I promised to do this. I delivered this. We have been able to sell our oil, a barrier for banking has been removed,’ and then he’s promising to deliver more.”

“Many people believe that this presidential election is not just about presidents. So Iran’s supreme leader is elderly and, I think, he wants to publicly recognize that he may not live longer so people are thinking and talking about his next successor. Ebrahim Raisi is being talked about as the hardliners’ candidate for Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini… many people believe that he ran for president to set the stage for being Iran’s next supreme leader.”

Music for this season’s podcast was created by Feras Arrabi. You can find more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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