Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran's Dubya

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

In the early 1980-ies when I was working in a hotel which more and more became niched towards refugees, I met quite a few Iranians, Azeri, Kurds and so on.

They stroke me as very Western.

Much more than for instance the Iriaquis who, you can imagine, slid along the walls in a furtive fashion, looking frightenedly behind their backs (lots of refugee espionage from the regime going on).

And they all had horrid stories to tell...

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

There is a saying that when literacy reaches 50% there is a Revolution of some kind. And that this is valid for all cultures.

In Europe this has been the legacy of the Reformation.

Sweden experienced the advent of Absolutism in 1680, which changed the ancient society for better (some) and for worse (more).

It changed Sweden forever.