[I was interviewed by Javier Mendez of Chile’s El Mercurio on the upcoming Iranian elections. This is the substance of the interview.]
Q. Do you believe there is a chance that Ahmadinejad could be reelected in Iran?
Q. What would be the internal and external political consequences of an AhmadinejadÂ´s victory in the next election?
A. Unless Ahmadinejad becomes more open to reform, his re-election would probably be a continued alienation of the Iranian youth. Externally, any opportunities for reconciliation between Iran and the West created by Obama’s opening to the Muslim world might be lost.
3) Has he possibilities of winning? Why?
A. Although a victory for Ahmadinejad is not certain, he is the man to beat. Some powerful factors drive his popularity, despite economic problems of high unemployment and inflation rates, his political blunders (like the holocaust denial), dissatisfaction among urban young people with the status quo, and his image as the Iranian equivalent of George W. Bush, an embarrassment to his country. Most conservatives and some important elements of the religious establishment favor his re-election. More importantly, the extreme anti-Iranian rhetoric coming from Israel (and to a lesser extent from the U.S.) gives the incumbent the edge that sitting leaders of besieged states always have.
4) What should we expect of Ahmadinejad in the next government, especially in the nuclear conflict?
A. Ahmadinejad’s policies in a second term are unlikely to differ greatly from his first. There is no reason to expect his stance on nuclear development to change, but his successors would not change that policy either, although they would probably be less confrontational.
5) What about of candidates Mehdi Korroubi and Husein Mousavi? Are they reformists or not? Have they possibilities of winning?
A. Mousavi is the stronger challenger to Ahmadinejad at the moment, but neither should be ruled out. While they my be expected to split the reform vote between them, the fact that both are running may draw more reform voters into the election forcing a run-off in which the combined votes of the liberal voters may defeat Ahmadinejad.
6) What are the main platforms of Mehdi Korroubi and Husein Mousavi?
A. All four leading candidates have virtually identical positions on Israel, nuclear development, and the terms for improving relations with the United States. Mousavi is a reformer and his use of his wife in his campaign (unprecedented in the Islamic Republic) has signaled a commitment to women’s rights. Korroubi is cleric with a liberal reputation who is respected for sensitivity to ethnic minority concerns and who is emphasizing economic issues such as letting the people own shares of the Iranian oil and gas companies.
7) After this elections, what will be the future of Iran?
A. God knows best.
Minaret of Freedom Institute