By: Yadullah Shahibzadeh
Regardless of the outcomes of the Friday presidential election in Iran, this election has revealed new aspects and potentials of Iranian politics. The cynics of Iranian politics believed until recently that every thing, to the last detail, has been arranged to show the western world yet another boring Iranian election, as a result of which nothing significant comes out in the end. To make this presidential election more interesting, Iranian TV announced open debates between presidential candidates for the first time since the presidential elections started in 1979. Now after the end of these debates, the immense impact they had on millions of decided and undecided Iranian voters is beyond question.
The absolute majority of Iranians followed these debates, and have made the main topics and the details of the debates the object of serious debates as well as funny tales and jokes transmitted through newspapers, conversations and millions of sms messages. People of every political persuasion, from those who are very proud of boycotting all elections to show that they are smarter then those who lead the political games in Iran to those who see voting as a citizenry duty no matter what the outcomes of the election would be, to those who have already decided to vote for the first time in their lives because of the miserable economic and political situation they believe the incumbent administration has created for their country, and finally to those who believe that elections are the best means possible to make a change no matter how little it might be; all have followed these debates enthusiastically. The expected high turnout in the Friday election is due partly to these broadcasted debates during which the presidential candidates criticized each other relentless and sometimes exposed the opponent’s share in the economic corruption in the country.
Another new phenomenon in this election is the unprecedented occasional demonstrations of the supporters of the reform oriented Mousavi in Teheran’s streets that starts every day from the afternoon to 3 or 4 clocks of the next morning. As a response to the government’s reluctance to rent the largest stadium in Teheran to Mossavi supporters on Wednesday, a human chain of more than 20 kilometers in Tehran’s Vali-ye Asr street that lasted several hours has been the most stylish and powerful demonstration of support for a candidate thus far. This human chain refreshed the memory of many side walkers and participants in the demonstration of the great times of the Iranian revolution, the time of solidarity and selflessness, something Mir Hossein Mousavi is very proud of evoking in his speeches as well as in his last TV broadcasted interview. But more importantly, this form of political activity is what Mousavi has asked for since the first day of his candidacy. Unlike Khatami, who expected the Iranians vote for him in the time of election to carry out the reforms, Moussavi asks for their active participation with a revolutionary spirit. He calls himself an eslah-talab-e osulgara, (a reformer who remains true to the principles) a term misunderstood not only by his conservative and reform oriented opponents but also by many ‘experts’ of Iranian politics. The principles Mousavi refers to are solidarity, selflessness towards transformation of a stagnant political situation for the people and by the people. When we ask to what extent the presidential candidate`s promises are realistic we simply think of the post-election performances. But I think in Mousavi’s case we have seen that he has fulfilled, at least, two of his promises, the opening of the political sphere and the spirit of solidarity he and his supporters have created during past few days that has made politics for hundreds of thousands of people, regardless of age, gender, education and social position an enjoyable activity. And in this regard he has tried and succeeded so far to revive the forgotten solidarity that Iranians have experienced during the revolution. The Iran of the past few days has experienced this solidarity through Mousavi’s ‘green wave’ or rather ‘green movement’. Now, the question is, can Mousavi’s ‘green movement’ develop after the election to fulfill its various promises, or become yet another memory in the collective consciousness of a nation whose political spirituality is understood by its artists such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf but misunderstood and hated by its philosophers such as Abdolkarim Soroush.