Iran’s Peculiar Election: The Role of Ideology

Issue Date October 2005
Volume 16
Issue 4
Page Numbers 52-63
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Iran's June 2005 presidential elections caught the world by surprise. All the reformist candidates failed in the first round, while the runoff saw pragmatic conservative ex-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his platform of more social (as distinct from political) freedom lose to economic populist and Islamist hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Experts have scrambled to explain what the results say about Iran's voters. After opting four times for reformism since 1997, have they renounced such aspirations in favor of a shift back to oil-financed welfarism replete with Khomeini-era slogans against wealth and corruption? Has a reform movement that focused on political rather than socioeconomic issues roused a voter backlash? Or is the result a rebuke of the ruling clerical caste with its violent repressiveness and notoriously ill-gotten wealth?