Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hashemi Jailed, Ahmadi-Nezhad Hoping for a Comeback?

Two significant events occurred this past week concerning Iranian domestic politics.

1) Mehdi Hashemi, the son of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (former president and former head of the Assembly of Experts, and current head of the Expediency Council), was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in corruption and other associated crimes

2) Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nezhad (another former president) attempted to create a new political party for his followers (YEKTA) which evidently has been banned the day after formation.

Both of these events show attempts to reinforce the status quo among the Iranian governing elite. Hashemi's family has suffered intense persecution since the 2009 election when the former president gave nominal support to the Green Movement. He has since lost his position as head of the Assembly of Experts (and failed in his 2015 re-election bid), though his protégé Hassan Rouhani's surprising election to the Iranian presidency in 2013 shows that he and his ideology has at least some public support.

Ahmadi-Nezhad's comeback has been quiet, though his position in the Expediency Council (a body appointed by the Supreme Leader) shows that he is not necessarily out of the picture indefinitely.

These events show the power and conservatism of the Iranian political system and how difficult 'change' can be. The upcoming legislative elections are sure to be very interesting as reformists will feel empowered by the relatively moderate Rouhani election, and conservatives will be desperate to stamp out this reemerging threat.

Despite this, a person like Ahmadi-Nezhad could turn the situation on its head if he manages to gain enough momentum to pose a threat to the established conservative factions. Iranian domestic politics are so multi-faceted any power shifts can lead to unprecedented and indeterminate changes.