Interview with Hiroshima University professor on the political disturbance in Iran

by Keisuke Yoshihara, Staff Writer

What lies behind the disorder in Iran, triggered by allegations of fraud in the presidential election? How will this confusion be resolved? The Chugoku Shimbun spoke with Shintaro Yoshimura, professor at the Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences of Hiroshima University, who is versed in the politics of Iran.

What is the cause of the conflict between former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moussavi, who lost the presidential election, and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?
When Mr. Khamenei served as president in the 1980s, Mr. Moussavi held the administrative power as prime minister. When the nation embarked on its efforts toward economic reconstruction after the end of the Iran-Iraq War in August 1988, Mr. Moussavi called for maintaining the state-controlled economy while Mr. Khamenei argued strongly for inviting foreign investment from the West. The clash between them has helped fuel the conflict.

Do you see the current unrest as a recurrence of the Iranian Revolution in 1979?
No, I don’t. Young people taking part in the demonstrations admire the fact that Western culture permits more freedom than their own culture and they want to alter the Islamic system to enjoy freedom of speech. Mr. Moussavi, however, whose leadership helped create the current Islamic system, has not considered calling for a dramatic transformation or collapse of the current system. This is the decisive difference between the young people and Mr. Moussavi. The young people will soon be disappointed in Mr. Moussavi and the demonstrations will quiet down.

For another revolution, there must be the right leader. Thirty years ago, there was Khomeini, an uncompromising dissident. At this point, no one is ready to clearly articulate how order would be established after the fall of the Islamic system.

The Guardian Council in Iran announced that the number of votes cast exceeded the actual number of voters in some areas. Do you think the presidential election was rigged?
Voters can cast their ballots at any polling station in Iran as long as they carry their identity cards. The fact that the number of votes recorded exceeded the number of eligible voters in some areas does not necessarily provide evidence of a rigged election. However, an analysis of the numbers of votes by province that were released by the Interior Ministry of Iran shows that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had obtained a significant number of votes in every province. This is “unnatural,” given the poor reputation regarding his political achievements over the past four years.

Will the current administration be able to end the confusion?
The Guardian Council will probably conduct some more investigation and seek to persuade Mr. Moussavi concerning the election results. The government, I believe, will try to win the young people to its side through measures to curb the unemployment rate and annual inflation rate, the latter of which is estimated to be 20 to 30 percent. The administration might raise its revenue by the export of its abundant oil resources, eventually enabling the increase of public works projects. There is also the possibility that the government will strengthen the nuclear industry, which has raised international concerns because of its “suspected nuclear development.” We have to keep an eye on the situation in Iran.

(Originally published on June 25, 2009)