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Talking points: Iran elections

After eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, Iran will hold the first round of elections between candidates, including one hand-picked by Ahmadinjad, on Friday. USF Director for the Center of Strategic and Diplomatic Studies and Iran expert Mohsen Milani weighed in on the upcoming election during a conference call hosted by “Foreign Affairs” magazine.

“What we have been witnessing, at least since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, is that the size of the Iranian elite and popular support for the Islamic Republic has narrowed down significantly. … But more importantly, and that’s the reality of Iran today, and reality of the election (is that) here is a large constituency, I would say somewhere between 55 percent to 60 percent of the electorate, that is hungry for reform, hungry for change – significant change in Iranian politics and the politics of the Islamic Republic. 

Any candidate who can attract that large constituency, which essentially consists of people under the age of 30 as well as women as well as modern middle class – that individual can win. 

The reality is that the right wing, or the conservative faction, does not have the support among its constituency.  

Therefore, the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khamenei, in particular, are doing everything they can not to allow a candidate to emerge that will attract this large constituency. 

… The bottom line is that there is a contradiction in the Islamic Republic. The constitution, on one hand, wants to create a republic in which the republican component, the parliament and the presidency, is subordinated to the non-elected Supreme Leader. You simply cannot have a republic whose president and parliament is subordinate to the Supreme Leader. 

What I believe has been happening in Iran for the past eight years is a movement away from the Islamic Republic and a move toward creating an Islamic government – a form of government in which the president is totally subordinated to the Supreme Leader and unfortunately, despite the major differences, it seems that out of the five candidates … none of those five candidates are about to challenge this fundamental contradiction of the Islamic Republic. They are all pretty much happy with the Supreme Leader calling the calls and they more or less are serving as his Chief Executive Implementer.” 

– Mohsen Milani, Director for Center of Strategic and Diplomatic Studies