Monday, July 13, 2009

Fissures in Ahmadinejad's Coalition?

Mousavi has been mulling the establishment of a modern political party to institutionalize the so-far loosely organized electoral protest. He just received an endorsement from within Ahmadinejad’s own camp.

Highly placed conservative cleric and party activist Habibollah Asgaroladi has supported Mousavi’s plans for establishing a political party, saying:

Establishing a party to voice one's ideas and political perceptions is a wise move.

The establishment of a modern, permanent, institutionalized political party by Mousavi would constitute a permanent challenge to the hierarchical and subservient political system envisioned by both the IRGC and conservative Shi’ite clergy, though it is not clear how his plans for a potential new party differ from the numerous political organizations that already exist in Iran. However, in the current context, hardline regime supporters, such as Mesbah-Yazdi and Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, would probably consider the mere establishment of such an opposition party, regardless of its platform or the behavior of its members, as an act of sedition.

Habibollah Asgaroladi, secretary-general of the Islamic Coalition Party, is a member of the Expediency Council and former head of the Iranian Secret Service and Homeland Security Agency. (The Expediency Council, with about 28 members, advises the Supreme Leader and supervises the conduct of the elected portion of the government.) It would seem difficult for the regime to label him as a traitor.

Asgaroladi, labeled by Press TV a “vocal supporter” of Ahmadinejad, is general secretary of the pro-Ahmadinejad Imam and Leadership Front (or Principalist faction). He is also a central council member of the Islamic Coalition Party (Motalefeh), an old conservative organization. Reputedly extremely wealthy, he is a member of the Bazaar Merchant Coalition society.

His previous support for Ahmadinejad notwithstanding, he sternly admonished Ahmadinejad on June 18 for sneering at the protestors, saying:

If we imagine that the preferences of ourselves and of those around us are Right and all others are Wrong, and we look at the others as flotsam and jetsam, whoever has such concept, irrespective of his rank, that person has ceased to be a servant of God, for God has told His servants to have the best dialog with each other.

Whether Asgaroladi is criticizing Ahmadinejad out of respect for democracy, to defend his personal privileges as a wealthy cleric with close ties to the bazaar, or perhaps because he sees Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising hostility toward his opponents as dangerously destabilizing, remains unclear. Whatever the mix of reasons, his voicing of support for a reformist party strengthens the principle that parties have a legitimate role and sends a message to would-be centralizers that even conservatives can oppose dictatorship.

What influence Asgaroladi may have personally is also hard to say, although his attitude can hardly help but buttress his boss, Rafsanjani, who heads the Expediency Council (and who will lead Friday prayers this week after suspiciously missing his normal rotation last week), and make the effort to paint Mousavi as seditious all the more difficult. More serious for Ahmadinejad is the implication that Asgaroladi’s sudden disenchantment with the man whose candidacy he supported might herald a broader revolt within Ahmadinejad’s own coalition.


Sure enough, hardliners are saying that Mousavi cannot have a political party:

According to the state run newspaper Kayhan, Mohammad Reza Mir Taj al-Dini, member of the principalist faction has said “in the Islamic Republic system, a person who does not accept the guardianship of the jurist and the Guardian Council is not qualified to form a party.”

The Deputy of the Council for Coordination of the Forces of the Revolution said, “Mousavi must first prove that he does not have enmity and hostility towards the regime and accepts the existing laws and then think about forming a party.”

“I believe that given current circumstances Mousavi wants to impose his illegal words by using partisan force and this in not acceptable and he should not be given a permit.”

Kayhan also quoted the speaker of the Society Loyal to Islamic Revolution who said “creating a party by people like Mousavi whose loyalty to the regime has not been proven is against the constitution.” Mohammad Azimi added “Mousavi’s behavior after the announcement of election results has risen doubts about his loyalty to the constitution…therefore he is not qualified to form a party.”

Thanks to NiacINsight website for this comment and translation from the Persian.

No comments: