ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, June 8

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
This Monday ROAR presents two views on the coming Iranian Presidential election.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA’s Nikolay Surkov writes that in the presidential race in Iran, the Liberals and some Conservatives have joined forces against the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The election, says the columnist, is scheduled for June 12, and the opposition is in a hurry to explain its position in the unprecedented (in Iran’s political history) American-style 90-minute televised debates between the candidates, as well as on billboards especially erected for the campaign, and in debates on university campuses all over the country.

The author says the Iranian opposition is now attacking the president by calling his governing methods ‘dictatorial’ and accusing him of lying to the people about the situation in the national economy – growth rates and etc. Ahmadinejad, in response, accuses the main opposition candidates of corruption.

Meanwhile the opposition has been consolidating its forces around former Iranian prime minister Mir-Hussein Musawi. Surkov quotes local experts as saying that after Ahmadinejad, Musawi is the most popular candidate in the campaign. He writes that Musawi is supported by the groups in the Iranian population most interested in social progress and the modernization of society, especially women and young people. Musawi, now a joint candidate of pragmatic-minded groups in both Conservative and Liberal camps, sees his main competition in Ahmadinejad, supported by the Radicals.

The opposition has had some success in making the campaign, and the election itself, as open as is possible in Iran: it persuaded state television to organize and show in full the television debates, during which criticisms addressed to the incumbent president were put forth loud and clear for the whole nation to hear and make their own conclusions. The same TV broadcast, however, carried to the masses Ahmadinejad’s accusations addressed to the opposition, along with reminders of his own record as president: raising pensions and the incomes of poor families, and low-interest loans to farmers and small businesses.

The author says that the Iranian opposition has achieved an agreement with spiritual leader Ayatolla Ali Hamenei, who holds many of the strings of real power in his hands. Under the deal, the Ayatolla abstains from influencing the election campaign in favor of Ahmadinejad in exchange for Mohammad Hatami’s decision not to run for president. Hatami, explains the writer, is the most popular figure among all opposition candidates: he is known for his complete devotion to reform and modernization.

The deal between him and Ayatolla Ali Hamenei was brokered by another well-known opposition figure – millionaire and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has now taken upon himself the role of the main sponsor and benefactor of the opposition candidates’ election campaign, not only supporting it materially but also allowing political meetings and activities on the campuses of private universities belonging to him, writes the columnist.

If Rafsanjani is a Liberal, the current speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani is definitely a conservative. He recently ruined Ahmadinejad’s plan to distribute funds from the budget to the population in the form of another low-interest loan, says the writer, and by doing that, has effectively lowered the approval rating of the incumbent president.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baker Kalibaf , another conservative and a hero of the Iran-Iraq war, has allowed political campaigning in the late evening hours and set up billboards for the young to express their political views in the form of graffiti. Both measures benefit the opposition much more than Ahmadinejad’s side. The opposition, says the writer, has also taken steps to ensure clean voting and avoid falsification of any kind.

Dmitry Sabov writes in OGONIOK – the oldest Russian weekly magazine and badly affected by the crisis, but now re-launched by the KOMMERSANT publishers – that the Iranian election of 2009 is a very special event which will bring great change, either to Iran or to the world around it.

The 2009 election, says the author, with its open campaigning, detailed and concrete programs presented by the candidates, and complete with free-flowing emotions, are giving the world a glimpse of the real Iran. That is, not the country and nation portrayed by the mostly negative, one-sided propaganda of the past decade, but the country and nation as they really are.

The writer says that the reformist opposition in Iran appears not strong enough yet to overcome Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s popularity among the least prosperous part of the nation’s population (which is also the majority), nor the ‘administrative resource’ in his hands. However, such factors as the opposition’s call for the inclusion of women in the next government and the fact that the opposition is led by Mir-Hussein Musawi, a Turk and not a Persian by race, may give the reformists enough of the female vote and the votes of the ethnic minorities. The two combined, says the writer, may give the opposition a chance.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT