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:
Khamenei has been politicizing the religious system non-stop, to the point of the Islamic Republic nowadays being neither a democracy nor a theocracy: rather, it’s a clerical autocracy. [...]
What is happening now is the moderate/pragmatists reaching a more solid position allied with the reformists – with the extreme right held in check by a supreme leader more supreme than ever. [...The] Islamic Republic’s fierce internal power play is far from over.
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.