A new, weird dynamic from Iran by mattsteinglass
June 16, 2009, 4:12 am
Filed under: Iran, Vietnam

In 24 hours, Iran seems to have turned upside down. Like everyone else, I’m glued to the computer screen watching what’s happening.

Whichever side comes out of this week on top, it seems that a new dynamic has emerged that should be unsettling to single-party or ideologically controlled autocratic states everywhere. Iran has an electoral system that is similar in some respects to China’s or Vietnam’s. Elections are held periodically, but the lists of candidates are carefully vetted by the real controlling power structure — in Vietnam or China’s case, the Communist Party; in Iran’s case, the clergy — to ensure ideological compliance and loyalty.

Moussavi passed through this system of ideological control; he’s no radical reformer. But what’s happened is that simply by representing an alternative, Moussavi became a vehicle for the expression of the hopes of people who are far more radical in their reformist attitudes than anyone in the dominant power structure. Even though the players in the Iranian elections were all screened for their personal views, the simple fact of an election became a forum in which radical and unacceptable political views could express themselves and ultimately co-opt one of the candidates.

It’s impossible to imagine anything similar on such a scale happening in Vietnam. There are no popular elections for top leadership, and politics in Vietnam today is so much less personalistic than in Iran that no ideology ever crystallizes around one political figure. But this kind of dynamic is surely part of why the Party is worried about the consequences of extending direct elections on a local basis.

3 Comments so far
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Except the elections in China (don’t know about Vietnam) essentially might as well not take place for all the effect they have. It’s not that they are vetted, as much as merely act as a cipher for what has already been decided, offering nothing in the way of choice, and receiving nothing in the way of reasonable exposure domestically.

Comment by FOARP

Interesting observation. All of this passion for change focused on a man who will not represent their views, who is most probably just another Ahmadinijad?

Comment by Bryce

[…] the founders of the current regime, Moussavi is now shaking it to its core. Analyst Matt Steinglass has blogged regarding Moussavi, “What’s happened is that simply by representing an alternative, Moussavi became a vehicle […]

Pingback by Mir Hossein Moussavi's Bobby Kennedy Connection | The Stimulist

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