Iran

Rezaee, Election Debate, and the Rafsanjani Bombshell

 
In the debate Ahamadinejad (AN) shocked everyone by asking "is the Rafsanjani aristocracy establishment supposed to perpetuate?"
If we could put Mohsen Rezaee’s (member of the Expediency Council) candidacy in perspective, then we may be able to decode AN’s charged utterances during the election debate with Mousavi. Foreign observers might mostly be focused on and interested in uranium enrichment, and comments about the Holocaust; however, economic issues are very significant in this election.  So, one has to peel away at the surface.
 
Rezaee, associated with the moderate-conservative camp (Principalists), does not have any chance of winning in the upcoming elections, and he scores extremely low in the opinion polls.  So, why is he running? Most analysts consider his participation intended to take conservative or working class votes away from Ahamadinejad, and to guarantee that the election would move to the 2nd round.  In the 2nd round, many believe that the apathy vote (ra’y khamoosh) will participate and clearly vote against AN.  In other words, Rezaee is viewed as a part of the anti-Ahmadinejad alliance.  True, politically Rezaee is known as a Principalist, but at the same time he is an ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani (Kargozaran), and both are members of the Expediency Council.  What Rezaee, Rafsanjani, Larijani, have in common is that they belong to the Old Guard, and their evolved system is somewhat unsettled by the AN movement and policies.
 
Rafsanjani and his political party Kargozaran, (servants of reconstruction) were credited with opening up the Iranian society after the war years.  As an effective mayor, Karbaschi had modernized Tehran. While friendly to the Neoliberal global economic policies of IMF and WTO, domestically Rafsanjani had maintained that there is nothing wrong with the idea of (influential) individuals being entrepreneurial as well. True, free enterprise is dynamic, efficient and growth oriented, but when it relies on government connections, it can cause dissatisfaction among many ordinary people outside the game.  In the prevailing Persian political parlance they refer to this as the "rantier" phenomenon.  At that time, the media had focused on trends known as easy made money (servat’hay bad’avardeh).
 
During the 2005 presidential elections, AN emphasized the election themes of economic security and presented himself as the populist candidate opposed to the establishment who was interested in a more just and inclusive distribution of economic benefits.  He had claimed that he would dislodge the "economic mafias" from the scene, thereby setting a confrontational tone to the elections.  After his election victory, some members of the old guard became concerned about the direction of his future policies towards privatization — Article 44, in Persian referred to as Asl 44 of the Constitution. Consequently, it appears some influential actors lobbied Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that the "execution" of Article 44 not be interrupted.  Ex-minister Namdar Zanganeh was appointed by the Expediency Council to see this through. http://www.asl44news.ir/
 
For some years the privatization (vagozari) of public companies had been underway, and had benefited some players.  During the 4 years of AN’s government, a subterranean tension /struggle was going on that was somewhat invisible to the naked eye, in the sense that the economic management of the country had become a contested area.  AN’s administration had claimed that they wanted the privatization process (vagozari) to benefit other sectors of the society.  To this end, he initiated plans that were labeled by his opponents as populist.  "Justice Shares" (seham edalat) of the privatized companies were intended for the poor, the working class, the lower-middle class, and the retired.  As a mechanism to avoid quick cashing of the stocks, AN placed a 20 year moratorium, so Justice Stocks could not be transferred to other individuals (Mousavi indicated that he will continue this).
 
AN aslo initiated a program of micro-loans intended to finance workshops and small scale production called Bongah Zood’bazdeh (fast returning companies).  He demanded that the Central Bank lower interest rates to accommodate loans to small players. The head of the Central Bank called this policy inflationary and was concerned it would lead to liquidity problems. This caused a clash with the government.  AN dismissed the entire Plan and Budget Organization over the issue of budgets for provincial development projects.
Earlier, AN had argued that the government bureaucracies and management cadres shaped in previous periods were obstructing his policies, and he had said that the 1st minister of treasury Davood Danesh Jafari was not in line with his government policies and was actually reporting to the Expediency Council (Rezaee, Rafsanjani).  Presently, Mr. Danesh Jafari is one of the strategists of Rezaee election campaign.  AN insisted that once elected to the office, he has the political mandate to pursue his own platform.
Therefore, to accomplish his policies, he insinuated that in place of expertise that is politicized, he had to bring in the Praetorian Guard for economic management positions*.  *In the debate with Mousavi he objected to a "sakhtar edari va halgheh modiriyati" "over time a cadre has been created that is not in line with the Revolution."
 
After a year of preparation, AN last winter brought legislation before Majles called the Transformative Economic Plan ( Tarh Tahavol Eghtesadi). The premise was that government subsidies are spread too thin and also benefit the undeserving affluent sectors that do not need such subsidies. The plan intended to eliminate the present system of subsidies, and then with a fresh start prioritize and allocate subsidies to the deserving sectors of the economy.  The Majles turned it down, saying that the government should not be in a position to make such arbitrary determinations independent of oversight bodies.
 
Meanwhile, he was unable to find allies because he proved to be politically less tolerant and inclusive. And since his initiatives caused a tug of war with the establishment, they were not successful in the end. Import-export and mercantile activity earn quick money, so under any presidential candidate, manufacturing and industry can only progress if the banking and the credit system is in line with economic programs.
 
In a subsequent debate with Mousavi last night, Rezaee spoke in defense of unmanaged privatization (Article 44) in the Kargozaran mode.  Since February, Mousavi has philosophically criticized soda’gary (speculation and easy money). In this debate, somewhat critical of the practice of the 44 plan, he proved his independence from Rafsanjani, and proposed an institution to systematize privatization (vagozari Asl 44) plan. He recommended a 7-step strategy implementation plan with a timetable.  At this time Mousavi seems to be emerging as the top candidate.
 
 
Farid Marjai