A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 22, 2009

Iran: The Final Four

This is actually a couple of days old now, but in case you missed it somehow: 475 people registered to run for President of Iran. (Admittedly a lot of these were crank candidates, from underaged kids to total unknowns.) Only four got the approval of the Council of Guardians, and they're the only four who had a chance anyway, namely the incumbent, Ahmadinejad; Mir-Hossein Musavi; Mehdi Karrubi, and Mohsen Reza'i. Two reformists (Karrubi definitely and Musavi rather ambiguously) and two more hardline types (the incumbent and Reza'i). I would remind everyone that Iran is not a Western-style democracy (ask the 471 people who weren't allowed to run), but that neither Mohammad Khatami nor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were the "favored" candidates in the years they won election. (On the other hand, Iranian Presidents don't lose their runs for a second term.) While I'd put my money if I were a betting man on Ahmadinejad, I still think there's a chance of a surprise here. Unlike, say, the Tunisian or Mauritanian Presidential elections coming up, we aren't absolutely certain who will win in Iran.

Still, don't bet your kid's college fund on Ahmadinejad losing. I would love to see Karrubi bow out, and Reza'i split the hardline vote, but I don't think it will happen. And Musavi is somebody most young Iranians don't even really know: his heyday was the 1980s, before most of today's voters were politically aware, or even born.

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