Monday, June 15, 2009
It is possible that Ahmadinejad really won that election, though probably not with a 2 to 1 majority. He is bitterly hated in the cosmopolitan cities, among professionals and the educated, what in this country are referred to by right wing opinionators as the "ay-leets" (elites). Ahmadinejad has a devoted base, much as Dubya still does, and one that is similar to Dubya's. Ahmadinejad's supporters are largely poor with limited education and opportunities. They are very deeply and conservatively religious. They are mostly rural, though not exclusively. His most devoted supporters are veterans of the long bloody war with Iraq. Like Dubya, Ahmadinejad exploits the class and regional differences between his supporters and his opponents. Resentment of the cities is a powerful political force in a population that is still largely rural. Ahmadinejad openly exploits the bigotry (especially the antisemitism and xenophobia) of his constituents. His campaign rhetoric is a mix of piety and jingoism.
Like Dubya in the 2000 election, Ahmadinejad may have "won" this election because the Powers That Be (the mullahs there, the majority shareholders here) wanted him to win.
What may prove to be Ahmadinejad's downfall are not the divisions between urban and rural, or the class divisions, but the growing generational divide in Iran. It was a generational divide that put Obama in power, with the under 30 demogaphic turning out in droves to vote him into the presidency (for the first time in my life, in November 2008 I was one of the few old people at a polling station that was swarming with kids, and I mean kids, all under 25). It is the under 30 demographic which dropped the Republican party like a hot brick.
Something similar could happen to Ahmadinejad whose most fervent supporters are mostly middle aged and elderly. The younger generations in Iran, like the young all over the world, are leaving their villages behind and pouring into the cities to start new lives. Most dangerous for the regime are rising expectations from a huge population of people under 30. Dashing those expectations in an Ahmadinejad election may prove to be a Pyhric victory for the theocratic establishment which clearly favored him. As DeToqueville always reminded us, expectation is the spark of revolution.
Posted by Counterlight at Monday, June 15, 2009