The 2009 Iranian presidential elections has marked a turning point in the country’s ongoing evolution toward a post-Islamist republic in which Islamic values and principles are not dictated but embraced. The unexpected popular unrest and political upheaval that has occurred reflects the polarization of social, economic, and political forces in the country. Each of these forces has a different vision for the future of the Islamic Republic. The Iranian political leadership now faces its most severe crisis of governance since the 1979 revolution, and it therefore must take drastic measures to restore both its own political legitimacy and public trust in the system. Modest political reforms devoid of serious consideration of greater political freedoms will be insufficient to avert similar crises of governance in the future. Without such reforms, a combination of economic hardship, authoritarian tendencies, and instruments enshrined in the political system–exacerbated by international pressure–might unravel the ongoing experiment with “Islamic Republicanism” and lead to an even more authoritarian Islamic government.
Iran‘s tenth presidential election on June 12, 2009 saw the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad face off against former prime minister, Mir-Hossein Mousavi; two-time Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi; and former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Mohsen Reza’i. More than a month after the election, the leaders of the Islamic Republic were still dazzled by the political upheaval that followed. The immediate and widespread demonstrations in Tehran and across major Iranian cities in support of the defeated presidential candidates were unprecedented in their magnitude, scale, duration, and level of violence. Just six days after the election, former president and head of the powerful Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, criticized the authorities for their handling of the elections during his sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran University and acknowledged that ambiguities surrounding the election had broken the nation’s trust in the establishment: “Doubt has been cast…. There are two groups; one has no doubt and is moving ahead, while the other [group], that is not few in number, says it has doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt.” The Leader of the Association of Teachers and Researchers, Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, praised Rafsanjani’s sermon and called on officials to consider his words of advice. Leading opposition figures Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were also present at the prayers, despite some calls for their arrest. The following day, Ayatollah Mousavi Tabrizi also suggested that: “By freeing detainees, relaxing media restrictions and condoling with the families of the victims of the unrest, officials can create an atmosphere where the people do not feel they are ruled by a certain group.”
Nevertheless, the supporters of the “status quo” have continued to reject the notion that a crisis of legitimacy has rocked the very foundation of the regime. For example, Ayatollah Yazdi has argued that “In Islam, the legitimacy of a government is granted by God and its acceptance by the people.” Ayatollah Khamene’i and President Ahmadinejad have blamed foreign hands and anti-revolutionary forces for fomenting much of the unrest, thus denying that the root-cause of the crisis might lie within the current system.
Iran has travelled far in the past 30 years, from a country torn by a revolution to a burgeoning country rich in human capital and natural resources. It has the potential to become a regional powerhouse. Yet the ever present gap between the message of the revolution–with its promised prosperity, Islamic democracy, and spiritual fulfillment–and what has actually been delivered has eventually culminated in a crisis of political legitimacy and governance.
Perhaps it was inevitable that without a “blue print” for creating an “Islamic Republic” that opinions and interests would clash over the type of religious and political governance to be established. Though the current crisis has shaken the foundation of political leadership in the country, the political opposition’s demands do not advocate the destruction of the Iranian system.
In his letter to his supporters, Mir-Hossein Mousavi clearly stated that his goal was not against the foundation of the Islamic Republic, but instead against liars and manipulators who in the name of Islam have manipulated people’s rights. He further urged the government not only to allow for peaceful demonstrations (based on Article 27 of the constitution), but to actually encourage them. On July 20, 2009, Ayatollah Khamene’i, recognizing the severity of the political divisions within the system, deliberately warned that “If the nation feels that in the remarks made by certain officials there lies an issue of enmity with the Islamic system and certain hands are at work to help a movement that seeks to deliver a blow to the establishment, they [the nation] will distance themselves [from those officials], even if such officials pursue a slogan that has arisen from the nation.”
The divisions within the Iranian political leadership reflect the inadequacies enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which continue to undermine the realization of a more widespread, legitimate political system based on popular will, or mardom-salari, in an Islamic framework. The underlying cause of the current crisis is the regime’s elaborate and yet imbalanced institutional structure that is resistant to–and extremely suspicious of–change. The absence of a system of institutional checks and balances has led to a concentration of political power in prominent political elites and personalities, as well as to widespread political cronyism and corruption. The Iranian populace is fundamentally disillusioned with the abundance of political sloganeering, rhetoric, and grandiose claims made by president Ahmadinejad, leading military and IRGC personalities, and others. It is also disillusioned by the severity of its economic hardship and the social control imposed by the morality police. The political leadership must therefore embrace change and political reform if it is to ensure its own survival and restore the system’s political legitimacy. It is only through significant structural political reforms that future crises can be averted and the ultimate vision of an “Islamic Republic” be realized. The incongruence between the state and its institutions and a sophisticated society needs to be overcome. The national crisis over the 2009 presidential election, seen through this prism, is not simply over who won or lost the election or the extent of electoral mishandling, but instead signifies an actual crisis of governance.
This article will therefore discuss Iran’s tenth presidential election, the issues involved, and the candidates on center stage. It will also analyze its implications for Iran’s future political development.
ISSUES AND CANDIDATES IN THE 2009 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
The Electoral System and Presidential Candidates
What motivates the Iranian electorate to vote is not fundamentally different from that of other nationalities–hope for a better future. Viewed from the outside, however, one might question the utility of participating in an electoral system that in the case of Iran contains a mixture of both authoritarian and democratic institutions. Not only are candidates in all elections vetted by the powerful, appointed members of the Guardian Council (Shuraye Negahban), but the supreme leader (rahbar) and the intermediary Expediency Council (Shuraye Maslahat-e Nizam) act, in effect, like a powerful upper-chamber of parliament with appointed members that are disproportionately vested with greater power than the elected parliament and president. Furthermore, the rahbar is endowed with veto power in all matters of state interest, is commander in chief, and possesses the power to dismiss the president. Through his appointment of the judiciary chief, the rahbar is also directly and indirectly responsible for appointing the 12 members of the Guardian Council, whose function is to ensure the compatibility of legislative acts with Islamic laws and principles. The rahbar is only accountable to the Assembly of Experts (Majlies-e Kobregan-e Rahbari), an 86-member elected clerical body that meets only twice a year but can dismiss the rahbar if his leadership is proven contrary to the Islamic system and its interest. The Assembly of Experts has thus far acted without much interference in the political affairs of the state, other than being an observant and tamed watchdog.
Despite the enshrined authoritarian tendencies in the institutional arrangements designed to safeguard the Islamic nature of the republic, popular participation in elections has been widespread and significant. There are village, city council, parliamentary, and presidential elections, as well as elections for the Assembly of Experts. The populace in the past 30 years has developed a participatory political culture, although the electorate still gravitates around personalities instead of issues. This is not surprising, given the absence of “political parties” in the present system, the authoritarian rule of the Pahlavi regimes, and the historical absence of an “Islamic republic blueprint” that could have helped with the theoretical and practical formulation of issues and policy options. The electorate in Iran thus relies on personalities and “political tendencies” to vote for candidates, despite recognition that powerful individuals and organizations are associated with different tendencies or groups.
Iranian political tendencies are organized into different religious, occupational and professional organizations, clubs, and associations. For example, the National Confidence Party, associated with Mehdi Karroubi (Hezb-e Etemad-e Melli), and the Association of Combatant Clerics (Majma’-e Rowhaniyun-e Mobare), are connected with the so-called reformist camp and their candidates. Similarly, the Principlists are those individuals and groups possessing a more conservative take on sociopolitical and religious issues. The term “Principlist” here is used to refer to ultra-conservatives whose views are not entirely held by moderate conservatives. In general, it is safe to hold that Principlists favor a more restrictive application of Shari’a (law as well as customs and principles) in both politics and society. This is a natural by-product of the belief that Islamic laws and precepts are open to interpretation by the ulama, including non-clerical scholars of Islam.
There are, however, variations on the reformist-conservative political spectrum: While Ayatollah Khamene’i, President Ahmadinejad, and Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani are all branded as Conservative or Principlist, their views on politics, society, and religion vary considerably. Former Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami also differ on many issues from Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, despite the fact that they all belong to the “reformist” camp. The ideological division can have a drastic impact on personal and group power, as well as on state policy. As one observer has pointed out, Khatami’s two terms in office from 1997 to 2005 were defined by political clashes between his administration, which advocated more personal freedoms for Iranians and other branches of the Islamic republic’s government, particularly the judiciary, the military, and some religious leaders, with Ahmadinejad backed by a small but influential group of hard-line clerics and military commanders who continue to favor a larger role for Islam in society and advocate for a more vigorous military to guard the country against attack.
Though such overlapping views on social, economic, and political issues within and across the conservative-reformist spectrum makes the simple classification of the politico-ideological position of candidates and political groupings erroneous, both conservatives and reformists share a crucial central point: They both agree that the experimentation with Islamic Republicanism–the concept of a limited popular sovereignty within the framework of Shari’a and the goal of creating an Islamic society–must forge ahead and that the Iranian system must not succumb to Western-style secularism.
Therefore, especially in light of foreign pressure and historical interventionism, regime survivability is indispensible. Any in-house fighting over political power and matters of governance must thus be resolved internally. The unity of the political elite in Iran is paramount, and it is only enhanced by threats of foreign intervention and/or attempts to humiliate Iranian culture or nationalism. This is true, despite the high level of corruption, the abuse of power, and the outright authoritarian tendencies enshrined in the imbalanced separation of powers in the constitution.
All presidential candidates in Iran are vetted by the Guardian Council to assure the viability of their candidacy. The primary candidates in the 2009 election were the last prime minister of Iran (1981-1989), Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the two-time parliament (Majlis) speaker (1989-1992 and 2000-2004), Mehdi Karroubi, secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Reza’i and incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Initially, two former parliamentarians, Akbar A’lami, and the only female candidate, A’zam Taleqani, joined the race, but they later withdrew. Both Mousavi and Karroubi belong to the “reformist” camp, and it was after much speculation and behind the scenes dealing that former president Muhammad Khatami withdrew his candidacy on behalf of Mousavi. However, Karroubi, who had also participated in the 2005 presidential election, refused to withdraw in support of fellow reformist Mousavi and actually helped organize rallies in opposition to the incumbent president.
Of all the candidates, Mousavi was less well known to the third generation of post-revolution Iranians born after the 1980s. He had eventually withdrawn from politics, but his return was paved by older reformist statesmen, including former presidents Muhammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Mohsen Reza’i decided to enter the race to champion a more pragmatic conservative domestic and foreign policy, believing that Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical approach to politics was damaging Iran’s interests. Mousavi has drawn support primarily from Iran’s disgruntled urban class, though traditionally it has a low turnout rate in elections. Karroubi is well known in some rural areas and he has appealed to students and urban professionals that want more personal freedoms, including less interference in how Iranians dress, associate in public, and court members of the opposite sex.
Iran suffers from widespread socioeconomic problems, exacerbated by intense political struggles among its ruling elites and severe international sanctions imposed because of its “outspoken” foreign policy in general and its nuclear program in particular. Other contributing factors include the eight-year war with Iraq, population displacement, the influx of Iraqi and Afghani refugees, rapid urbanization, rapid population growth to over 71 million, and an oil-dependent public-sector-dominated economy. It is common for ordinary people to hold two or three jobs just to make ends meet, something that is new to most older-generation Iranians who grew up prior to the revolution. All of this is true, regardless of the makeup of the presiding administration and/or the parliament.
Not surprisingly, Iran’s demography, in which two-thirds of the population is below 30 years old, has a direct bearing on elections. The younger population is principally concerned with the high levels of unemployment and inflation. Unemployment was estimated at 12.5 percent in 2008, but it was actually around 25 percent among the younger demographic. Of the 3 million unemployed in 2006, three-quarters (2.3 million) were below age 30. Unemployment rates for young people in their early twenties were above 20 percent for men and 40 percent for women. Azadeh Kian, professor of sociology at the University of Paris VII, has stressed the importance of these young voters in the composition of Mousavi’s electoral support:
They belong to the structured social groups, notably the middle classes, workers, traders and entrepreneurs who suffer, more than others, the consequences of a soaring monopolization of the economy for political ends, of an inflation between 27% and 30%, of a huge unemployment rate (between 30% and 50% amidst the young, according to estimates), and the of Iranian and foreign capital. No jobs are being created for the 800,000 young people who enter the Iranian job market every year.
Iran’s social problems are as acute as, but not separated from, its economic challenges. The imposition of “Islamic” dress code and behavior has meant a practical end to all public affection and interaction between the genders. Economic problems and a shortage of affordable housing have led most couples to postpone their marriages. As a result, the average age of marriage in Iran has risen to the late twenties. Unemployment, a shortage of recreational facilities, entertainment, creative artistic activities, and an abundance of state and private sponsored religious activities, have resulted in millions of a frustrated post-revolution generation abandoning their religious beliefs. The perception of widespread corruption among the top Iranian political leadership has also resulted in millions of energetic and yet frustrated young people in Tehran and other major cities becoming disillusioned with both politics and religion. In one of the nationally televised 2009 presidential debates, President Ahmadinejad openly admitted to corruption among the top-level political leadership. He pointed out a number of Mousavi’s supporters, including the millionaire sons of Rafsanjani and Nateq Nuri (former speaker). He also questioned the former mayor of Tehran, Karbaschi, and his wife, for acquiring “Rasht Electric” without auction and later liquidating the company.
During the campaign, Mousavi complained about Ahmadinejad’s dictatorial tendencies evident in his dismantling of the national Budget and Planning Organization and in his trying to control the Central Bank. He also accused Ahmadinejad of disregarding laws when deemed inconvenient to the government and of endangering Iran’s national security through adventurous policies. Mousavi also expressed his reformist tendencies when he told an audience of female supporters in Tehran: “We should reform laws that are unfair to women…. We should prepare the ground for an Iran where women are treated without discrimination,” adding, “We should reform laws that treat women unequally. We should empower women financially, women should be able to choose their professions according to their merits, and Iranian women should be able to reach the highest level of decision making bodies.” In return, Ahmadinejad claimed that he was facing not just Mousavi, but the past three governments of Hashemi, Khatami, and Mousavi… who [had all] deviated from the true values of the revolution. The supporters of Ahmadinejad were also quick to point out that Mousavi’s government during the early years of the revolution was not, contrary to his claims, one of sound management. Rather, they argued that Mousavi’s 1981-1987 government saw an expansion of bureaucracy and corruption, an increase in imports of agricultural products, higher unemployment, an expansion of “underground economic activities,” higher inflation, a rapid migration of farmers to cities, and overall inefficiencies in economic activities. Such criticisms, however, failed to take into account the impact of the war on Mousavi’s economic policies.
Karroubi, the two-time former Majlis speaker, proposed plans to offer shares in Iran’s state oil and gas industry to the public. Gholam Hossein Karbaschi, Karroubi’s pick for vice-president, claimed that an “oil share” policy would enable their government to pay every Iranian some $200 per month if oil prices rose to $150-per-barrel. Karroubi’s overall stand on issues paralleled his fellow reformist. As his head of campaign, Gholam Hossein Karbaschi, a former mayor of Tehran said, “There is not that much distinction between the two challengers. Both want a change from this government.”
Mohsen Reza’i, on the other hand, has claimed that “The root of Iran’s economic problems [are] structural but during the government of Ahmadinejad [they] have become worse: President Ahmadinejad’s economic management has made these structural problems deeper. That is why I talk of an economic revolution.” Reza’i has sounded conciliatory, portraying himself as a pragmatist Principlist with a centrist approach to Iran’s domestic and foreign policy problems. Reza’i said if elected president, he would select a female foreign minister and employ the expertise of prominent figures from the two main rival camps in the country to promote Iranian interests abroad. He also said during the campaign that he would seek the help of former reformist president, Khatami, on both domestic and European affairs and to further develop ties with the Arab world with the help of former President Hashemi-Rafsanjani. He also suggested a former Principlist parliament speaker, Ali-Akbar Nategh-Nouri, as one of his Foreign Ministry point men on developing relations with Asia and Russia. Nevertheless, he has also succumbed to sloganeering similar to Ahmadinejad’s, at one stage contending that if he were elected, his government would be capable of stopping an Israeli attack with “one strike.”
Iran’s foreign policy posture and direction was a major point of contention between president Ahmadinejad and the other presidential contenders. Ahmadinejad defended his nuclear policies during the past four years and claimed that, “Certain individuals inside the country put the government under pressure to surrender to the enemy and suspend uranium enrichment activities,” adding that “officials inside the country imposed heavier pressure on the government rather than foreigners.” Ahmadinejad also claimed that “the three previous administrations had to beg the West for three centrifuges and now we are in possession of seven thousands of them… the West continued threatening Iran then, place Iran among the Axis of Evil for its good gestures… now they are not talking about regime change anymore… today’s threat against Iran has been removed forever.” President Ahmadinejad has described the agreement as a disgrace to the Iranian nation and reacted by removing Khatami’s nuclear team soon after he came to power in 2005, accusing its members of making “too many compromises.”
Ahmadinejad’s challengers were backed by a coalition of prominent Muslim clerics and veteran Iranian politicians who oppose his policies both at home and abroad, thus turning the election into an unusually stark confrontation between two political factions with opposing views on the future of Iran. The challengers advocated better relations with the United States. They also promised to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program would have strictly peaceful purposes and argued that the Holocaust should not be an issue in Iranian politics.
President Ahmadinejad came under harsh criticism during the campaign for actually harming Iran’s national interest. The reformist camp accused the president’s foreign policy as overly aggressive and even unnecessarily bellicose, rhetorical, and misdirected.
All of the candidates have pledged to continue Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium, despite U.N. sanctions. None of them have challenged the current regime’s stand on Israel. However, Karroubi did strongly condemn Ahmadinejad’s comments on the Holocaust. As he told a group of students in April: “Ahmadinejad’s comments on the Holocaust were a great service to Israel…. What has happened that we now have to support Hitler? This is none of our business.”  The three principal challengers agreed that Iran should reach out to other nations and soften the tone of its foreign policy, which is largely set by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i. Mousavi stressed that he would calm international opposition to Iran’s nuclear program by providing guarantees that Iran would not turn its research on atomic energy into an effort to build nuclear weapons. Mohsen Reza’i said he would talk to President Obama if conditions were right. During a visit to Iran’s Kurdish region in May, Khamene’i urged voters not to support “pro-Western” candidates.  The reality, however, is that as the former nuclear negotiator under president Khatami pointed out, Khamene’i supported the 2003 deal two weeks after it was signed and described it as “an appropriate political move” despite having, in effect, a veto power.
Mishandling the Election
The implosion of Iran’s political machinery during the presidential election was unexpected, as its political leadership was confident the conduct of an orderly election would boost its legitimacy. What subsequently occurred appears to have been a panicked response by the ruling conservatives to the increasing support evident for Mousavi, whose victory might have meant the unraveling of what President Ahmadinejad had already established. Over the previous four years Ahmadinejad’s populist economic policies, together with his strong ties to influential conservative forces like the IRGC, the more than 200 conservative members of parliament, Ayatollah Khamene’i and influential clerics at the Qom Seminary had generated popular support with a “conservative revolutionary” appeal to a populace desirous of justice and equality. Ahmadinejad’s social conservatism also suited a majority of Iranians, although “sophisticated” rich and middle classes in the country’s major cities objected to his use of the morality police to enforce more restrictive policing of public behavior. Ahmadinejad’s outlandish statements on the Holocaust and grandiose statements about Iran’s achievements, his strong defense of Palestinian rights and his uncompromising approach to the nuclear issue also appealed to the more conservative rural and small town electorate.
Ahmadinejad’s political rhetoric vastly departed from his predecessor President Muhammad Khatami’s emphasis on the rule of law and civil society (qanun va jame’a Madani). Khatami’s era proved problematic for conservatives who believed his focus on the rule of law and civil society would eventually lead to more liberal interpretations of the role of Islam in society and politics and even encourage social disturbances, like the university student riots of summer 1999. Ahmadinejad’s first term thus pleased Iran’s social conservatives and his reelection would have meant a consolidation of their power. On the other hand, a Mousavi victory would have meant a return to the Khatami years, when social conservatives felt under pressure to concede to social and political reforms and thus a weakening of the Islamic nature of the Republic.
The government claimed to have set up more than 45,000 polling stations in Iran and some 304 stations in over 130 countries for more than 46 million eligible voters at home and abroad. According to the deputy commander of the Iranian police, Brigadier-General Ahmad Reza Radan, more than 200,000 security officials were deployed to maintain security and escort the ballot boxes to the designated counting centers. Over 250 foreign journalists from different countries were also in Tehran to cover the election.
Though most early polls indicated a victory for President Ahmadinejad, others suggested a close race. According to a report by Ayandeh News, a poll conducted in Iran’s ten biggest cities found that Mousavi was actually leading the incumbent by 4 percent, with nearly 38 percent expressing support for Mousavi. An opinion poll conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) in mid-May 2009 also found that Mousavi had the lead in Tehran with 47 percent, while 43 percent of respondents supported Ahmadinejad.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of opinion polls predicted a different outcome. For example, Raja News published a poll on June 1, 2009 that claimed nearly 53 percent of those surveyed supported Ahmadinejad’s bid for a second term in office. According to a later Raja News poll, Ahmadinejad would have taken 61.5 percent of the votes in the first round, with 29.4 percent of votes going to Mousavi, 6.9 percent to Karroubi, and 2.1 percent to Reza’i. This prediction was based on a poll of 15,436. Though Raja News’ close ties with the incumbent undermined its trustworthiness, Fars News also reported that in separate polls, President Ahmadinejad was a constant winner: In one of its polls conducted in all 30 provinces, Ahmadinejad was predicted to win the election with 52.8 percent, with Mousavi’s share of the vote at 25.5 percent. Reza’i and Karroubi were both predicted to win 3.6 and 2.3 percent of the vote respectively. In yet another poll, this time conducted by one of Iran’s ministries, Ahmadinejad was predicted to win the election with 54 percent versus Mousavi’s 43 percent, with a 60 percent turnout. In yet another, conducted in 31 cities, Ahmadinejad was slated to win 60 percent, with Mousavi 25 percent, and Reza’i and Karroubi each winning 1.7 percent. In another poll done in 46 cities, Ahmadinejad was going to win 54 percent of the total vote, with Mousavi winning 33 percent, Reza’i 3.2 percent, and Karroubi 1.6 percent, with 69 percent popular turnout. In another separate poll of 1,000 villages, cities, and provincial capitals, Ahmadinejad was slated to win 62 percent, with Mousavi and Karroubi’s combined share standing at 35 percent. In yet another report, Fars News again predicted that “one of the pro-justice candidates [meaning Ahmadinejad] would win the presidential election in the first round with over 60 percent of the vote. Fars News also predicted that rural participation would surpass 90 percent and that 33 percent of eligible voters residing in villages and small towns supported Ahmadinejad.
On the whole, therefore, Ahmadinejad appeared to be headed for a victory based on the support he would receive from across the country. Kaveh Afrasiabi, author of Reading in Iran Foreign Policy After September 11, may not be incorrect in his assertion that the election results may have actually reflected the Iranian electorate’s wishes, as pre-election studies (like those above) had indicated: “Pre-election opinion sampling by pollsters Ballen and Doherty, found that Ahmadinejad would win by a two to one margin and that only 16% of Azeris would vote for Mousavi. ‘Election results in Iran may reflect the will of Iranian people,’ they have written in the Washington Post.”
Though it was thus conceivable for Ahmadinejad to have won the election outright, the subsequent mishandling of the election and the desperate attempts by the authorities to explain what had happened only added to the perception that the election was fraudulent. Even the rahbar came under suspicion. The desire of the establishment to ensure an Ahmadinejad victory had already led some Guardian Council members and the recently-appointed elections supervisor at the Ministry of the Interior (the organ that oversees the conduct of the elections and counts the votes), Khosrow Daneshju, to make public predictions of an Ahmadinejad victory. Another unusual event occurred when more than 200 of the 290 lawmakers in the Iranian Parliament (representing around 70 percent) signed a letter endorsing the incumbent’s reelection. Combined with Ahmadinejad’s margin of victory, the hasty announcement, the quick confirmation of the results by the Council of Guardian, and the final approval of the results by Ayatollah Khamene’i, the perception of corruption became even greater.
The electorate obviously expected either a smaller margin of victory or a second-round run-off between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. The tally of the election results was outlandishly favorable to the incumbent. President Ahmadinejad officially received 24,527,516 votes (around 62 percent); Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s received 13,216,411 votes (nearly 33 percent); and Mohsen Reza’i and Mehdi Karroubi won 1.7 and 0.85 percent respectively. Karroubi and Reza’i’s shares of the vote were drastically lower than expected. The total number of people eligible to vote had been estimated at over 46 million, and total votes cast in the elections were reported at 39,165,191 (around 85 percent).
In his Friday prayers speech, Ayatollah Khamene’i basically rejected all accusations of widespread fraud, arguing that 11 million votes could not be defrauded because the system would not permit it. Though he did admit some fraud had taken place, he claimed that it would not have changed the final outcome. He also insisted that all complaints about the election should be resolved through legal means and that the Guardian Council would investigate any irregularities. Finally, he declared his opposition to a recount because it would violate the laws of the country.
A spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council, tasked with overseeing the electoral process, announced on June 22 that it was ready to recount 10 percent of random ballot boxes: Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei said that “although the Guardian Council is not legally obliged, we are ready to recount 10 percent of the (ballot) boxes randomly in the presence of representatives of the candidates.” The Guardian Council confirmed that, by their estimate, only 50 cities had experienced more than 100 percent votes cast, while the opposition claimed such violations in 170 cities. Though the Council believed that 3 million extra votes may have been counted, this figure would not have changed the final election outcome anyway.
Iran’s deputy interior minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, who was in charge of the election committee, claimed in a press conference on June 19 that: (a) all candidates had their representatives present in election precincts, and thus no widespread cheating was feasible; a total of 92,000 cards were issued for candidates’ representatives to preside over precincts–Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 86 percent, Mousavi in 92 percent, Karroubi in 19 percent, and Reza’i in 11 percent; (b) the committee had published 57 million ballots, which was 15-20 percent higher than the eligible voters of 46.2 million, in order to ensure all precincts had sufficient ballots and; (c) that a high volume of migration cross certain parts of the country might explain why, for example, in Mazanderan province, there had been a 100.2 percent turnout. He further claimed that the quick release of the election results was due to the speed of electronic balloting in many smaller towns around the country. Paper balloting in the major cities, however, had slowed down the final results.
Ayatollah Khamene’i also utilized an old line of defense in urging unity–the unseen hands of foreign enemies. He warned the elites to act responsibly and not to be deceived by foreign hands and their surrogates. He cautioned the elites on the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and attacked both the United States and Britain for interfering in Iran’s affairs through the spread of misinformation. He called for reconciliation and praised all four candidates for their long years of service and dedication to the Islamic system. He confessed that there were differences in style and approach among the ruling elite, but he also criticized the personal attacks that had been launched during the campaign. He particularly defended the former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, against corruption charges and said such matters must be resolved within the law. Khamene’i’s remarks were, at least in part, an attempt to undo the damage inflicted by Ahmadinejad’s attacks on the former presidents and their colleagues. Five family members of Rafsanjani were also arrested during the protests. The rahbar was, in effect, asking candidates to “kiss and make up,” and to accept the results.
All these explanations and pleas were falling on deaf ears. Popular suspicion remained that fraud had indeed taken place. How could so many cities report more than 100 percent votes? How could smaller towns afford electronic balloting and major cities be left with paper balloting? Why would the electoral laws allow people to vote outside of their precincts or provinces? Why would the rahbar endorse the election results only a day after the election, while at least a three-day waiting period is required to allow for verification and addressing of complaints on irregularities? In response, Karroubi’s letter called on the Guardian Council to stop wasting people’s time, annul the election, and hold a new one. Mohsen Reza’i also claimed that in 170 cities between 95 to 140 percent votes were reported, pointing to fraud in the election and voicing support for a recount.
In the massive demonstrations that followed, some 30 civilians and police were killed and hundreds more were arrested. Among this latter group were many prominent politicians and intellectuals. Tehran’s governor, General Morteza Tamaddon, reported on the first Tuesday after the election that 7 people had been killed and 29 injured during a rally. The attackers were reportedly “trying to loot weapons and vandalize public properties when they were shot by unidentified gunmen.” Other reports by government officials said that 20 people, including 8 Basij members, had been killed by June 25. However, according to an opposition website, an estimated 250 people had been killed by June 23. Some in the opposition also posted pictures of security forces they believed were responsible for violence against the people and even urged revenge for the death of the protestors. Among hundreds arrested were two leading reformist politicians, Behzad Nabavi and Saeed Hajjarian. The veteran reformist politician, Muhammad Ali Abtahi, advisor to the defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was also arrested. Among those since put on trial for helping organize demonstrations are prominent figures, including former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, former Government Spokesman Abdallah Ramazanzadeh, former senior lawmaker Mohsen Mirdamadi, and former Industry Minister Behzad Nabavi. The opposition pro-Mousavi party, Mosharekat, has described the trials as a “sham” and “laughable.”
Despite the defeated candidates’ pledge to pursue the matter within the boundaries of the law, they have insisted on a new election and not a mere recount of some ballots. This was a logical course of action given that the early endorsement of Ahmadinejad by Ayatollah Khamene’i left little hope of changing the results. As elucidated earlier, both the constitution and the formal institutional division of political power in Iran grant disproportionate amounts of power to the rahbar, who possesses a practical veto power over all matters of state. Khamene’i was thus able to issue a credible warning that protests against the country’s disputed presidential election results must end. In his first public remarks after days of protests, Khamene’i stated that the outcome had to be decided at the ballot box, not on the street. He said political leaders would be blamed for any violence.
The only avenue open to the opposition, except to continue with demonstrations and civil disobedience, was to pursue the matter within the boundaries of the existing laws and try to turn the protests into a genuine organized political movement. Speaking at a meeting on July 6, 2009, with the two top reformist figures, former President Muhammad Khatami and former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, Mousavi declared that he would pursue his protests through legal channels. Once he recognized that the street demonstrations would not convince the government to hold new elections, he decided to organize his support into a new opposition political party. The idea received a boost from some influential conservatives, including the senior member of the Islamic Coalition Party and leading Principlist figure, Habibollah Asgaroladi, who believed that: “Establishing a party to voice one’s ideas and political perceptions [was] a wise move.”
However, a subsequent ban on legally challenging the results inevitably led to more “illegal” public demonstrations, with the now infamous globally broadcast scenes of beatings, violence, and bloodshed. Incredible claims by government officials only exacerbated the tension. Official accounts of the violence in Tehran on June 20, 2009, claimed that only 13 people had been killed, with another 20 wounded. These casualties, they claimed, had only occurred after “terrorist elements” had infiltrated the rallies. They also claimed that armed terrorists had set fire to a mosque and that two gas stations and a military post had been attacked. Later, Iran’s intelligence minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, claimed foreign countries and their supporters were implementing plots to destabilize the country. In particular, he accused “Zionists” and their supporters, including some Western reporters he believed were engaged in acts of spying. Defending the performance of security forces during the post-election unrest and rejecting police use of weapons, the country’s chief of the Joint Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said they were not allowed to carry weapons. However, he did not specify what he meant by “security forces.”
Given Iran’s bitter, repeated, past experiences with foreign intervention in its internal affairs, it is not difficult to understand the extent of the political leadership’s concern with security and foreign infiltration. Still, the popularity of conspiracy theories in Iranian political culture also makes such declarations about the role of “foreign hands” and their internal allies in undermining national sovereignty vulnerable to political manipulation and abuse. True, the United States does have declared plans to undermine the government in Iran, and the Western media may display its own biases in what it decides not to report about Iran’s political realities. Nevertheless, it is simply imprudent for Iran’s political leadership to try to blame the country’s sociopolitical problems on the West. Iran’s vulnerability to outside pressure, influence, and manipulation is only a reflection of its domestic weaknesses in governance.
It would be a mistake to interpret the events following the 2009 presidential election as either attempts by some disgruntled segments of Iranian society, supported by foreign agents, to undermine the regime or as a widespread popular revolution to overthrow the Islamic system. As conservatives and reformists share common beliefs in the viability of the Islamic Republic and are united in their nationalism and fear of external threats and challenges, it would also be erroneous to think of the current crisis in governance as merely a power struggle between the reformist and conservative camps over political power and national resources. Instead, the current crisis is the natural result of 30 years of experimentation with Shi’a-inspired Islamic Republicanism in modernization. Iran is the world’s only true Islamic republic, based on a blend of Islamic Shari’a (Islamic law/path) and republicanism, with a unique constitution and political framework. In Iran, the secular-religious divide is in constant competition over legal and political matters. Similarly, the religious-secular divide in Iran has resulted in a duality of democratic and authoritarian institutional framework, but with much political authority reserved for the religious side of the equation.
The current crisis is a clash between different ideological outlooks over the appropriate degree of Islamization of Iran’s politics and society. There are, therefore, no true enemies or anti-revolutionaries in the current crisis. True, there are external interests and influences, supported by Iranians inspired by Western secularism and liberal democracy, who would like to see a secular and non-confrontational political system in Iran, with a liberal economic orientation in trade, commerce, and energy policy. Nevertheless, the success of Islamic Republicanism is ultimately a matter of competent and legitimate political leadership that is amenable to pressure from a society that perpetually demands political development–the process of a political system constantly adapting to changes in internal and global circumstances and prevailing norms and demands in matters of governance. Iran’s political leadership from the beginning has seen oscillations between pragmatism and ideological dogmatism, and what is needed now is more of the former.
The presidential campaign slogans and promises of both sides unfortunately focused more on “strategies” and “style of governance” than on what it would take to ensure the long-term stability and prosperity of the Islamic Republic. Personal attacks and the usual blame game politics utilized during presidential campaigns only damaged the country’s political leadership and undermined the legitimacy of the system. Ahmadinejad’s opponents contended during the campaign that his populist efforts to redistribute wealth among Iran’s 70 million people had caused high inflation, slower economic growth, and a steep rise in unemployment. Both Mousavi’s and Karroubi’s election platforms, however, remained vague, simply calling for more personal freedoms, the reinstatement of some key officials ousted by Ahmadinejad’s government, and an end to intrusive patrols by the morality police. Contenders complained that important figures in the Islamic Revolution had been sidelined under Ahmadinejad, and Karroubi pledged that these people would be brought back into the government if he won the election.  Muhammad Ali Abtahi, a cleric and former vice president who supported Karroubi, remarked that: “If we lose, those who want change in Iran will be sidelined and opposed by the government for years to come, and if Ahmadinejad loses, his group, which is supported by fanatics and military people, will be defeated for the first time.”
Most of all, the unrest in Iran has eroded the legitimacy of the political system by unearthing long-held internal ideological and strategic disagreements within the political establishment over matters of governance. Elahe Mohtasham, senior research associate at The Foreign Policy Center in London, believes that President Ahmadinejad’s government will now have to take into account the wishes of all the Iranian people and that unless rapid and tangible reform is initiated, it will be difficult to imagine how his government could prevent future demonstrations, even if he succeeds in clamping down on the current one. Haleh Afshar, Professor of Politics and Women’s Studies at the University of York, also believes that “without the re-run of the elections it can only continue by extreme oppression, which would not be acceptable to Iranians.” While some reforms might help allay further deterioration of the situation, a long-term solution requires deeper institutional reforms that will result in greater social reform and a more efficient handling of the economy.
The political opposition in Iran must first recognize the complexities of the Iranian political and institutional system of governance and its socioeconomic and cultural convolution. The prospects for structural and permanent change, without a fundamental change in the distribution of constitutional powers vested in the elected and appointed bodies of the political system, are nonexistent. Of course, a presidential campaign may not be an appropriate place to debate matters concerning the distribution of constitutional powers. Nevertheless, the opposition of prominent grand ayatollahs to the mishandling of the election and its aftermath suggests an opening for a serious debate among the country’s top political and religious leadership on these issues. As Ayatollah Montazeri, has remarked: “I have repeatedly warned that people’s votes are people’s and divine trust in the system, and any system based on stealing people’s vote is without religious and political legitimacy… and urge all in charge and especially the police and the security not to sell out their religion for the sake of others.” This was a stern warning that even “an Islamic” government led by a faqih, the rahbar, can be considered illegitimate.
Karim Sadjadpour, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes that “there are already signs that the opposition is entering a new phase: Instead of mass rallies they are now focusing on civil disobedience, including strikes among merchants (bazaris), labourers, and key arteries of the Iranian economy (like the petroleum industry and oil ministry).” Some even assert that, “what is happening in Iran today is reminiscent of protests in India in the 1940s and in the American Deep South in the 1960s,” and that, as in these cases, “activism is creating a new political space in Iran.” It is true that public political space has become stronger and more assertive after the first decade of the revolution. Yet the political establishment has been slow to react to the ever increasingly sophisticated Iranian population that is itself the result of over three decades of social development through improvements in education, health, and human capital.
The Iranian electorates’ demands for greater transparency in politics and more accountability in matters of governance can only be truly satiated through institutional reforms that require changes to the constitution. The opposition must, therefore, not only transform itself into a potent political party, but even more importantly, must strive to explore ways to counter the prevailing concentration of political power in some existing political institutions. Mousavi’s constant plea for “a return to the principles of the constitution” is a legitimate but insufficient point. True, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic allows for a wider range of freedoms than is currently the case in Iran. However, the problem with governance in Iran is not that the ruling political elite ignores the constitutional rights of the people. It is that the constitutional division of power allows for too much concentration of power in certain political institutions of the state. As prominent Iranian journalist and dissident, Akbar Ganji, rightly points out:
Iran is a paradoxical nation. On the one hand, its political structure is a fundamentalist sultanism run by Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i and personified at least in the eyes of the outside world, by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On the other hand, Iran is farther along the path to democracy than most countries in the Middle East. It has a sophisticated political culture: its intellectuals, women, and young people are highly literate, cosmopolitan, and committed to the ideals of democracy, human rights, and nonviolent social transformation. The majority of Iran’s population stands against the country’s fundamentalist regime.
There are simply too many “centers of concentrated power” in the Iranian political system, facilitating political cronyism, corruption, and inhibiting political development. The Expediency Council, for example, was created to mediate disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council to ensure bills passed by the former comply with Islam. In reality, however, the unelected members of the Expediency Council, which is headed by the former president Rafsanjani, act as members of an “upper chamber” of parliament, allowing hardly any opportunity for the parliament’s 290 members to rebuke decisions made by it, or ultimately by the rahbar if some form of political stalemate between the institutions occurs. The creation of the Expediency Council after the constitutional amendment in 1989 has also contributed to political rivalry and personal politics. For example, the rahbar is responsible for appointing the head of the judiciary, who is the highest judicial authority in the country. The elected parliament has no say in the matter. Significantly, there are ways to amend some of the provisions of the current constitution without subverting the essence and the wisdom of its current framework. The key is to simplify the present system and give overriding power to each branch of the government to counter challenges to its ruling.
The dispute over who won Iran’s 2009 presidential election may never be resolved. Election irregularities are common occurrences in all types of political system, and political systems with weaker or inadequate political institutions are more vulnerable to cheating and manipulation. It is also important to point out the significance of the presence of a “reservoir” of political legitimacy and its role in averting political and socioeconomic turmoil when political tensions occur. Oligopolistic, personal politics and political corruption can more easily overtake political systems where political institutions are either weak or ineffective in countering a concentration of political power. Even democratic political systems can degenerate into personal politics, cronyism, and widespread corruption, particularly if a viable system of checks and balances does not exist.
The tenth presidential election in Iran was supposed to be a “routine” matter. President Ahmadinejad had the support of the rahbar and most conservatives; the parliament was overwhelmingly behind the president; and his populist economic policies had helped millions of mostly small city and village residents through different programs. The reformist opposition, on the other hand, seemed disorganized and divided, with prominent leaders like Rafsanjani and Khatami flip-flopping on whether or not to even run. In the end, Mir-Hossein Mousavi agreed, albeit rather grudgingly, to run as the reformist candidate. His support came mostly from big cities and among the more educated populace. Though Ahmadinejad always had the upper hand, the highly suspicious large margin of his win, led to the perception–accurate or not–of widespread fraud in the election.
The extent of popular support demonstrated for the opposition reformist camp means the political legitimacy of not only Ahmadinejad, but the entire political establishment, has been seriously damaged. Even if Mousavi is the loser of the election:
…the disputed results of the election show that [he] had the support of 14 million people. This is a grassroots movement for change in Iran. Among this 14 million people, prominent intellectuals, writers, artists, university students, professors and educated and young urbanites are distinguishable. Crushing the protests equates to suppressing a large section of society, leaving people with utmost rage and deep resentment towards the system.
The primary concern for the future political development of the Islamic Republic should not center on whether or not election fraud took place, or even on the scale of the corruption if it did. Instead, the question should be, “what are the implications of the election, given what has happened?”
The future direction of political development in Iran thus stands at a crossroads. There is still the danger that the political system could degenerate further into authoritarianism, with the unelected institutions of government, in an alliance with the IRGC and Basij, overseeing a “populist” regime. Such a regime would retain the support of large segments of religious conservatives in small towns and rural areas, who remain dependent on government programs and subsidies. An outcome like this would undoubtedly lead to a more restrictive “Islamic Republic” and the imposition of harsher ‘‘Islamic codes of behavior… [leading to the] alienation of millions of Iranians.” Mohsen Sazegara, president of the -based Research Institute for Contemporary Iran, who was one of the founders of the IRGC, believes that, “for the first time in 120 years, Iranians [have] mobilize[d] themselves without religious help and with no religious motivation…” Sazegara insists Khamene’i’s regime “is already security obsessed and militarized. There is thus no turning back for such a brutal regime.”
A second scenario sees a secular political system, divorced from Islam altogether. Although the prospects for liberal democracy in Iran are low for now, its potential must be a concern to the religious establishment. The quickest way to turn the populace in Iran away from religion is through incompetence in governance. In an open letter to the electoral authorities, Karroubi wrote: “By deciding fairly to cancel the election and hold it again, you would be accepting the nation’s will and guaranteeing the permanence of the system.” The inability of the Iranian government to deliver on material goods and the spiritual fulfillment of its citizenry satisfactorily is due to political cronyism, corruption, and authoritarianism that are the result of a concentration of political power in institutions that are sanctioned by the prevailing law. Arbitrary rule and imbalanced application of the law can erode political legitimacy quickly. The dichotomy between the secular and the divine has thus convinced some to argue that the current crisis in Iran is a fierce battle between two factions of society. It is a “manifestation of a 100-year battle since Iran’s constitutional revolution (1905-1911) between those who advocate the imposition of strict traditional religious codes and those who seek the liberalization of society and the establishment of a tolerant secular .” Prominent members of the liberal National Front of Iran have also asked for a new election, with some members, Ibrahim Yazdi, Sahabi, and Hajj Sayyid Javadi, asking for the removal and trial of all those responsible, effectively questioning the legitimacy of the ruling elites in charge.
A third scenario continues to see the future of Iranian politics in Iran as a blend of Islam and Republicanism, but with popular sovereignty playing a more central role in matters of governance. For this to happen, however, a more balanced system of checks and balances must be established in the institutional framework of the political system. Short-term political reforms may help restore some political legitimacy to President Ahmadinejad’s administration and the political establishment. However, the long term prosperity and stability of the Iranian Islamic Republic requires a more fundamental rebalancing of political power among the institutions of government.
*Ali R Abootalebi is Professor of Middle Eastern and Global Politics at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. He is the author of Islam and Democracy (Garland Publishing, 2000) and numerous articles and book chapters. He is a frequent lecturer on Iranian and Middle Eastern Affairs.
 The author would like to thank his colleague and friend, Dr. Stephen Hill, for his editorial help and constructive comments on this article. As before, the author also thanks the University of Wisconsin UWEC’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for their continuing support of his research projects.
 Press TV, “Rafsanjani Sermon Receives Mixed Reviews,” July 18, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=101038§ionid=351020101.
 As quoted in Press TV, July 18, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=101038§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “In Iran, Leader Wants Political Voices to Reflect Caution,” July 20, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=101167§ionid=351020101.
 See the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran at: http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution.php.
 Political factions and tendencies in Iran are yet to develop into more organized political parties. The system as a whole frowns upon the idea of organized political parties since parties represent divisions and not “Islamic unity.” In reality, however, factionalism and personalism are powerful forces in Iranian politics.
 “Principlist” is also the umbrella term used in the Iranian media referring to conservatives in general.
 Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran’s Election Turns on President’s ‘Truths’,” Washington Post Foreign Service, May 23, 2009.
 Erdbrink, “Iran’s Election.”
 Figures on Iran’s economy are readily available although not always accurate. Figures here from CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/IR.html.
 Javad Salehi-Isfahani, “Tyranny of Numbers: Unemployment Rising,” July 9, 2009, http://djavad.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/unemployment-rising/#more-496.
 Pepe Escobar, “Iran‘s Streets Are Lost, But Hope Returns,” Asia Times, June 25, 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KF25Ak02.html.
 BBC, “Iran Candidate Mousavi Backs Women’s Rights,” May 30, 2009.
 Fars News, June 13, 2009, http://www1.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8803140053.
 Moror-I bar Iqtisad-I Dah-i Shast-i Keshvar () Paygah-i etela’at resan-i dolat, 1388/3/11 [Government Information Station, A Review of the 1980s Economy, June 4, 2009], http://www.dolat.ir/Nsite/FullStory/?Id=177961.
 He made the remarks in Iran’s central province of Yazd. Press TV, “Karroubi Camp Defends ‘Oil Share’ Policy,” June 1, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=96699§ionid=351020101.
 Erdbrink, “Iran’s Election.”
 Press TV, “Rezaei Explains Policies for a Youthful Iran,” May 23, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/election2009/detail.aspx?id=95757.
 Press TV, “Ahmadinejad’s Rival Talks Holocaust,” June 3, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=96868§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “Rezaei Vows to End Israeli-Waged War in ‘One Strike,’” May 26, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=96008§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “Election: Ahmadinejad Reviews ‘Policy of Compromise,’” May 31, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=96618§ionid=351020101. In October 2003, the government of the former president, Muhammad Khatami, signed the Sa’dabad Agreement (named after Iran’s presidential palace) with the EU3. The deal committed Iran to signing the Additional Protocol and a temporary enrichment halt.
 Erdbrink, “Iran’s Election.”
 Press TV, “Election: Ahmadinejad Reviews ‘Policy of Compromise,’” May 31, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=96618§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “Iran Tightens Security on Election Day,” June 12, 2009,
 Press TV, “250 Foreign Journalists Covering Iran Elections,” June 12, 2009,
 Press TV, “Moussavi Takes Lead in 10 Major Cities: Poll,” May 26, 2009.
 Press TV, “Ahmadinejad Leading Polls in Major Cities,” June 1, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=96702§ionid=351020101.
 Fars News, “Ahmadinejad Perouz-e Marhaleye Avval Entekhabat Khahad Boud” [“Ahmadinejad Will Win the Election in First Round”], June 13, 2009, http://www1.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8803201358.
Fars News Agency, “Elections Will End in the First Round with Sixty Percent Voting for the Just Candidate,” July 27, 2009 , http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8803221340.
 Fars News agency, “People’s Participation in Villages Will Surpass 90 Percent,” July 27, 2009, http://www.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8803220746.
 Kaveh L Afrasiabi, “Crunching the Numbers,” Asia Times, June 26, 2009, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KF26Ak04.html.
 Press TV, “Mousavi, Karroubi Jointly Safeguard Elections,” April 28, 2009.
 Press TV, “Iran MPs Sign Letter to Endorse Ahmadinejad,” May 26, 2009.
 Press TV, “Iran Rejects Claims of Voter Fraud,” June 13, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=98018§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “400 Police Personnel Injured in Iran Unrest,” June 20, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/98593.htm?sectionid=351020101.
 Radio Farda, “Shouraye Negahban bejaye etlafe vaght entekhabat ra batel konad” [“GC Annul the Elections Instead of Wasting Time”], 2 Tir, 1388 (June 22, 2009), http://www.radiofarda.com/content/f35_Film_Tehran_1Tir/1760905.html.
Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Pasokhe raise entekhbate keshvar beh shobahat” [“Response by the Chief of National Election Committee to Rumors”] 1388/3/28 (June 19, 2009), http://www.dolat.ir/Nsite/FullStory/?Id=178359.
 BBC, “‘Ten Killed’ in Iran Clashes – State TV,” June 21, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8111352.stm.
 Radio Farda, “Shouraye Negahban bejaye etlafe vaght entekhabat ra batel konad [“GC Annul the Elections Instead of Wasting Time”].
 Press TV, “Several People Killed near Pro-Moussavi Rally,” June 16, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail/98227.htm?sectionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “Basijis Shot Dead During Tehran Unrest,” June 25, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=98984§ionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “2 More Reformist Figures Arrested over Unrest,” June 16, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail/98257.htm?sectionid=351020101.
 BBC, “Iran Reformers Slate Trial ‘Sham,’” August 1, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8179963.stm.
 BBC, “Ayatollah Demands End to Protests,” June 19, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8108661.stm.
 Press TV, “Defiant Mousavi Will Pursue Opposition ‘Legally’,” July 7, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=100014§ionid=351070101.
 Press TV, “Mousavi ‘Party’ Gains Momentum,” July 13, 2009,
 Press TV, “13 Killed in Saturday Violence in Tehran,” June 21, 2009, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/98664.htm?sectionid=351020101.
 Press TV, “Iran Uncovers Plots in Presidential Election,” June 24, 2009,
 Press TV, “Top Army Chief Says Forces ‘Unarmed’ in Post-vote Unrest,” July 12, 2009, http://www.presstv.com/detail.aspx?id=100506§ionid=351020101.
 See Ray Takeyh, Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs (Oxford University Press, 2009).
 Erdbrink, “Iran’s Election.”
 BBC, “Viewpoints: What Next for Iran?” June 23, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8112829.stm.
 BBC, “Viewpoints.”
 BBC, “Viewpoints.”
 Robin Wright, “Fighting Back: Why a Government Crackdown Has Failed to Silence the Iranian Street,” Time Magazine, August 10, 2009, p. 43.
 Akbar Ganji, “Rise of the Sultans,” Foreign Affairs, June 24, 2009, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65137/akbar-ganji/rise-of-the-sultans.
 Some of these issues and questions about democracy have been addressed in the current author’s previous writings. See for example, “Iran’s 2004 Parliamentary Election and the Question of Democracy,” Iran Analysis Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 3 (January-March 2004), pp. 2-6; and “Iran’s Struggle for Democracy Continues: An Evaluation of Twenty-Five Years After the Revolution,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, Volume 8, No. 2 (June 2004), pp. 38-47, http://www.gloria-center.org/meria/2004/06/abootalebi.html.
 Shahir Shahidsaless, “Miscalculations Abound in Iran,” Asia Times, June 26, 2009,
 Escobar, “Iran‘s Streets Are Lost.”
 BBC, “Ayatollah Demands End to Protests.”
 Shahir Shahidsaless, “Prayers and Politics in Iran,” Asia Times, July 23, 2009,