Via The Independent:
Habitat was forced to apologise last night after it emerged that the home furnishings retailer had been using the violence in Iran to direct potential customers towards its spring collection. (more…)
Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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23 June 2009
Via The Independent:
22 June 2009
An anonymous guest post at The Reaction by someone described as “a Truman National Security Project fellow [who] travels regularly to Iran” sketches the complex of security forces and wonders if they can remain loyal to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
The conclusion, in part: “It is difficult to predict how these mercenaries will operate when their “enemies” are unarmed citizens supported by respectable national leaders.”
The key, it seems to me, really is whether the more pragmatic elements within the leadership feel sufficiently threatened by the hardliners to test the loyalty of these forces to the latter.
There is a report this morning from Al Arabiya that Iran’s Assembly of Experts could be preparing to assert its institutional role of holding the Supreme Leader to accounts for the first time (seen at PoliBlog):
I might note that by citing Steven’s PoliBlog here, I am engaging in a little blogger reciprocity: Earlier today Steven was kind enough to post an excerpt and extensive comment on my December, 2006, discussion of the last Assembly of Experts election in the context of considerations of how “institutionalized” Iran’s regime is. (I also had a follow-up on the theme of institutionalization a few days later.)
21 June 2009
As I have noted at various times over the last two and a half years of occasional analysis of Iranian elections and other developments, it has been clear that the Supreme Leader and the incumbent President are not exactly allies. There have even been signs that each might be trying to use the various elected and non-elected institutions established in the wake of the Islamic revolution to get rid of, or clip the powers of, the other.
However, it seems even more clear that in recent days, in reaction (and that is certainly the correct word here) to the protests against the suspicious ‘reelection’ of the president that the Supreme Leader has thrown his fate in with that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Yesterday, the Supreme Leader’s attempt to appear above the fray, as a mediator among the clerics’ factions, evidently collapsed, when opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi declined to attend what was hailed as a reconciliation meeting (seen at Juan Cole, but his link to the story no longer works).
The Iranian regime, with its odd combination of a narrow self-appointed ruling clique of clerics and relatively open (albeit restricted) elections, could regulate the significant divisions within the elite via elections so long as the electorate accepted the limited choices offered and the official results. Obviously, that equilibrium (if it can said ever to have been one) has now broken. As I noted a few days ago, it is rare for an authoritarian regime to tolerate the defeat of an incumbent president in elections and yet remain authoritarian. It seems as though the Supreme Leader himself understands that basic political-science fact, and probably has all along.
Now, mostly likely, either the ‘supreme leader’ and ‘president’ (inverted commas now because clearly their legitimacy is gone) either go out together (in which case Iran has a chance to become a democracy) or they stay (in which case the Islamic Republic survives, but in a much narrower and more openly authoritarian form). I have to agree with my colleague in Sociology, Gershon Shafir, that the latter is more likely now. However, writing at the same site, Augustus Norton is not so sure that the forces of repression can maintain the upper hand, if protests continue, and given the continued open divisions within the broader clergy.
How this might end is still uncertain, and may remain so for a time. But a solution within the framework of the Islamic Republic as we have known it looks increasingly out of reach.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (5)
16 June 2009
I am not on Twitter myself (and will admit that I don’t quite “get” it), but for those who are and want to help, Jack (in the comments) points us to some evidently useful advice.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (4)
15 June 2009
Juan Cole points to some aspects of the regional results in Iran that do not make sense–unless there was widespread fraud, that is. (And perhaps the authorities even amended some of their initial fraudulent reports to make them look less ridiculous.)
Propagation: Seeds & scions (6)
14 June 2009
A question for the readers: Has there ever been an authoritarian system in which the president lost a reelection bid, and in which the system remained authoritarian?
Obviously, I am thinking here of Iran, which has an unusual mix of authoritarianism and competitive elections–restricted, but competitive.
The context is that there have been, for the last few years, ample signs that much of the clerical establishment that actually rules Iran would like to clip the wings of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and perhaps be rid of him. But if his intra-regime opponents could not somehow get him to step aside (and I have no idea if there was ever any such organized effort), it would be hard to imagine most of the clerics not rallying behind the incumbent.
For an authoritarian system to allow an election defeat of its incumbent head of government presumably would simply be too risky.
Usually, authoritarian systems that have even minimally competitive elections never have significant intra-regime challengers in those elections (unless the regime is teetering, that is), either because the head of the government is a single-term position (as in the formerly authoritarian Mexican system) or the ruling coalition is sufficiently coordinated around a leader who serves multiple terms.
I have speculated previously about whether the Iranian regime was becoming more “institutionalized” over time, or not, and what it might mean if it were.* However, at this time, I still have more questions than answers…
Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
12 June 2009
One of the other candidates is Mehdi Karroubi, who narrowly missed the 2005 runoff, being edged by Ahmadinejad by less than two percentage points. Ahmadinejad in 2005 won only 20.3% of the vote in the first round, to 22% for former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad won the runoff 63.4-36.6.
Of course, Iran is by no means a democracy, and the presidency controls the interior ministry, which is responsible for the administration of elections. So official election results have to be taken with caution. Still, it is a lot easier to steal a close election, such as 2005, when Ahmadinejad’s second-place finish in the first round was considered a “surprise,” and Karroubi alleged fraud. In this election, we are unlikely to see a surprise second-round contender, as we did in 2005 (if a runoff is even needed this time). However, if results show Ahmadinejad narrowly ahead, we can expect suspicions to be rife–especially considering the “unprecedented” turnout. Iran may not be a democracy, but there is a lot of interest in this election.
The interest extends to expatriates, who are eligible to vote. This surprised me, as I would have imagined that expatriates would be more likely to be opponents of the regime, and denied voting rights for that reason.
I have previously discussed Iran’s unusual brew of authoritarianism with quite competitive elections. Just click “Iran” in the “planted in” line above, and scroll.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
14 March 2008
Today are parliamentary election in Iran. A commentary a few days ago in the Daily Star of Lebanon says it well: “Paradoxically, Iranian elections are abnormal by both democratic and autocratic standards.”
I have discussed the complex relationships among elected and non-elected institutions in Iran’s unusual electoral-authoritarian regime before. (Just click either of the block titles in the “Planted in” line above.)
08 November 2007
At Informed Comment Global Affairs, Farideh Farhi has an interesting preview of the national parliamentary elections in Iran, which will take place in March, 2008.
07 September 2007
More evidence of Iran’s nuclear program being a weapon–a weapon in the country’s internal political power struggle, that is.
Now that Hashemi Rafsanjani has been elected to the head of the Assembly of Experts, he has made a plea for talks with the West, directly countering a defiant speech just a few days ago by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani asserted that Iran does not seek a nuclear weapon, whereas Ahmadinejad blustered about Iran’s supposed great progress towards developing its nuclear program.
See BBC for more.
04 September 2007
In what can only count as yet another setback to the very strange presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran’s Assembly of Experts has elected ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as its head.
Rafsanjani, whom Ahmedinejad defeated in a runoff for the presidency in 2005 (after leading narrowly in the first round), now adds chairmanship of the body that “supervises” the Supreme Leader to his power base, which already includes head of the Expediency Council, a body which arbitrates disputes between the various bodies in Iran’s maze of institutions.
The Assembly of Experts, most recently elected in December, 2006, will select the replacement to current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although most likely not till he dies. The Assembly has formal authority to remove a sitting Supreme Leader, though whether it would ever actually do so is impossible to say in a regime that is still this young and hardly fully institutionalized. (As I noted back in December, there is some evidence that Ahmadinejad was hoping to get supporters elected to the Assembly and use it as a base to challenge Khamanei’s tenure.)
Rafsanjani easily defeated his closest challenger, 41-11, but those 41 votes are less than half the membership, which numbers 86. The Assembly is popularly elected, though the candidates–like those for all elective office–are vetted by the Guardian Council of senior clerics.1
The runner-up for chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati, currently heads the Guardian Council, while the candidate who came a distant third was Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, often considered a mentor to Ahmedinejad and a possible successor as Supreme Leader.
Mesbah-Yazdi’s chances of becoming Supreme Leader continue to look dim; his student’s presidency has not exactly helped his cause.
There is clearly an ongoing power struggle within Iran, and the institutions are by no means the only place it is being carried out. But it is being carried out in those institutions.
Click on “Iran” above to see other plantings here in the virtual orchard about Iranian elections and what “institutionalization” means in the context of such an unusual authoritarian regime. (As I noted back in December and have hinted at here, it is somewhat ambiguous as to whether it is a “good thing” if this regime’s actors play more by their own rules!)
19 December 2006
In two earlier plantings, I discussed what appears to be the increasing “institutionalization” of the Iranian regime, and the “setback” for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the elections last Friday. I noted that institutionalization of authoritarian regimes often results in their narrowing. The possible electoral setback for Ahmadinejad is encouraging to the extent that it means that the process of institutionalization is not going in as extreme a direction as Ahmadinejad and his mentor–and choice for next Supreme Leader–Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi would like it to go.
However, compared to developments earlier in this decade, the process of institutionalization may be gradually foreclosing the prospects of an electorally driven reformist opening. Pepe Escobar in the Asia Times puts it well:
The entire Asia Times piece is well worth reading. It is one of the best journalistic accounts of the current Iranian political process that I have seen. I thank Jonathan for the tip.
17 December 2006
Only early returns are in from Iran’s local council and Assembly of Experts elections. In fact, results are delayed due to problems with the computerized counting process. Fortunately, Iranian electoral authorities know how to count paper ballots by hand. But I digress…
It is already apparent that supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have suffered some key setbacks. In the Tehran race for Experts seats, the man whom Ahmadinejad defeated for president in June, 2005, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has about twice the votes of Mohamad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is seen as both a political mentor of Ahmadinejad and a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. (As noted in my previous discussion, the Experts choose the next Supreme Leader whenever the incumbent dies or otherwise cannot continue.)
Rafsanjani, considered a conservative before Ahmadinejad came onto the scene, was backed by reformists including ex-president Mohammad Khatami and apparently also was favored by the Supreme Leader.
Additionally, candidates backed by Ahmadinejad appear to have lost control of the Tehran municipal council, winning only two of fifteen seats.
Even though Iran is no democracy, at least one thing about the result is consistent with interpretations that will be familiar to Americans and others: The President denies that the outcome is in any way a reflection on his administration.
The results for the one national body at stake in these elections need to be treated with caution. Each province serves as a multi-seat district for the Assembly of Experts, and the electoral system is multiple nontransferable vote (MNTV). Under MNTV, the voter may cast up to as many votes as there are seats at stake in the district and the winners are simply the candidates with the most votes. There are no party lists to pool votes from a popular “party” leader to allied candidates, and there are effectively no parties, although there are loose party-like groupings. Despite the wide disparity in votes between Rafsanjani and Mesbah-Yazdi, both will be elected in Tehran, and it is thus far not entirely clear what the balance of allies of either man will be in Tehran’s Experts delegation.
Mesbah-Yazdi is in sixth place out of sixteen seats. The wide disparity between the two leaders is itself an indicator that most voters do not cast the full number of votes available to them. This is typical of MNTV systems, even with lower magnitude, but imagine the task for the voter when there are sixteen votes that he or she may cast, and candidate names are not organized on the ballot by party or even with party names beside them! Thus we can infer little from gap in votes between Rafsanjani and Mesbah-Yazdi about the overall balance, even in Tehran, let alone in the twenty-seven other districts (which range in magnitude from one to eight). However, Reuters India suggests that Mesbah-Yazdi’s favored candidates did not do so well:
Some of Ahmadinejad’s strongest support is in the provinces, so Mesbah-Yazdi allies probably have won elsewhere, and, as noted above, many of these provinces have low magnitude and thus may not have elected Rafsanjani allies.
Whatever the final outcome, the change in control of the Tehran city council and the strong showing in the Tehran Experts race by Rafsanjani clearly shows the limits of Ahmadinejad’s support within even the narrowly representative Iranian political class. If the “conference” on the Shoah and the repeated belligerent remarks about Israel were meant to mobilize his ultra-fundamentalist base, they appear to have backfired.
Turnout in these elections was high–apparently around sixty percent. Those who were energized were apparently the reformists, who had largely boycotted the elections of 2004 for parliament and 2005 for president.
15 December 2006
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