Gershom Shafir has a solid, short post on the long-term consequences of the collapse of “Islamic democracy”. But he’s over-hasty in writing:
Nor, as we learned, is it possible to make a peaceful transition from an Islamic to a democratic state, as happened in the aftermath of communism. Instead, Iran is coming to resemble the authoritarian regimes of the region.
I don’t think the intifadah in Iran proves that it would be impossible to have a transition from an Islamic to a democratic state that resembles the ones in Eastern Europe. The key difference was the character of the guy at the top. Ayatollah Khamenei made two huge mistakes on two successive Fridays. First he quickly endorsed a clumsily faked election result. Then, rather than accommodating demonstrators’ demands, he announced the regime’s intention to beat them down. A younger, more perceptive, and more daring leader would have recognized that by doing this, he was condemning his own state to either a rapid revolution or long-term stagnation and sclerosis. Such a leader would have found a way to force Ahmadinejad to resign and take responsiblity for the faked election, or found some other way to avoid a conflict that risks civil war. Khamenei is not such a leader. But it is not impossible, through the process of generational change, to get such a leader at the top of an authoritarian power structure. Mikhail Gorbachev was one, and that made all the difference.
Add: On second thought, perhaps Khamenei was afraid that such restraint would have exactly the consequences Gorbachev’s did.
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