By Karl Reiner
Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi has halted his campaign to become president of Iran. The Guardian Council, the theocratic body that vets candidates, has announced its selections. It has approved eight conservative men to be candidates in Iran's June 14 election. It appears that all the moderates and reformers were disqualified by the Guardian Council. Expecting the situation, some moderate potential candidates skipped the disqualification process. They did not make an effort to register as candidates during the registration period at the interior ministry.
Dr. Amirahmadi ran on a pragmatic set of ideas promoting change. As the only candidate with a platform, his concepts received a fair amount of attention, drawing support from young Iranians and university communities. Despite the setback, Dr. Amirahmadi remains optimistic. He hopes his ideas will be adopted by some of the approved candidates. He still believes that the Iranian people want new directions in domestic and foreign policy.
Other commentators see no reason for optimism. The approved list of candidates is a clear indication that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is not going to allow any challenge to the conservative trend of past years. During the current Ahmadinejad presidency, the economy has wobbled. Islamic conservatives have continually pushed the political climate to the right. Unhappy moderates see Iran becoming more repressive and undemocratic. The notion that the Islamic Republic can be reformed through elections is rapidly losing validity.
The fraudulent election of 2009 and its repressive aftermath started to erase the hopes of political moderates. Reformists and centrists are being marginalized as the increasingly restrictive rules of the Islamic theocracy take a firmer hold. The ideals of the 1979 revolution have faded. One dictatorship was overthrown; the result was to replace it with another.
As the Iranian state becomes more authoritarian, its leaders become detached from a larger portion of the population, especially the younger generation. Internationally, tensions continue to build around the nuclear issue, sanctions, Iran's support of the Syrian government and terrorist groups. Economic prosperity and democracy are seen as declining in the country. Given the political slenderness of presidential election choices, evermore cynical Iranian observers are predicting a low turnout of real voters in the June election.