Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mousavi: The Triumph of Ordinariness

What came as a relief when Sayyed Mohammad Khatami announced “either [Mir-Hosein] Mousavi or me” soon led to further distress. Mousavi's candidacy, a hybrid of reform and fundamentalism, became a sore subject for many reformists, not only for his ill-timed response to Khatami's call, but by his becoming more and more the candidate of nothingness.

One of Mousavi's supporters summarized his political strategy as “breaking the artificial division and artificial contrasts between his rivals. While he commits himself to the most democratic fundamentals of reformism, he makes it clear that reform is never in opposition to the fundamentals of the religion. He also believes that true fundamentalism needs to take some reformist view and action in order to make the religion dynamic.”

It is very difficult to know what exactly the above statement means, as it is difficult to know if it is intended to say anything meaningful at all. However ambiguous as it might sound, it says something about Mousavi's approach to politics and his system of management which his supporters claims to be his strong asset.

Mousavi, with his noncommittal, wordy , redundant, and empty talk, promising the obvious, the unavoidable, and even the trivial, reconfirms what is said about his policy and his ideas in the above statement.

In one of his meetings with university students to launch his campaign, Mousavi was advised by a student to be frank and forward in his talks, and by another, to refrain from the use of so many clichés when he travels to various regions or in his meetings with ethnic groups. The student was referring to his use of adjectives zealous (ghayoor)” and gallant warrior (salahshoor) when he was in Ilam-Bakhtiari. Mousavi responded “I'm very forward and candid,” and “Why should we give up good words such as ghayoor and salahshoor? They are indeed good words.” Another student asked him why there is no street named after Dr. Mosaddegh while we have street called Khaled Eslamboli (Anwar Sadat's assassin.) To that he answered, “When in a country people do not acknowledge their great men, it indicates that country has a problem.”

Though one can justify the desperate attempt of the reform leadership to highlight Mousavi's competence, one can be only more confused and puzzled by the journalists' soft and accommodating tone. Journalists who are supposed to be demanding and questioning, those who have to give a hard time to the candidates to help them clarify and explain their views and their positions to the public, seem have become foot troops of one of the candidates rather than the guardian of democracy, as the Constitution demands. Our pro-Mousavi journalists have generally forgotten their responsibilities, are stuck in the heavy traffic of politeness, confused in how to distinguish between respectfulness and silence, or, on pretext of “not weakening the candidates,” avoid any tough questions which might expose a bitter truth.

Oddly enough, our leading candidate has not received any real endorsement so far. Even those who remember Mousavi since the old days are at a loss as to how to give him a meaningful endorsement. Attaollah Mohajerani recalls an anecdote about him. During the Iran-Iraq war, then Prime Minister Mousavi called the mayor of Kermanshah, Mr. Nikou'i, at home late at night to find out if the government had found a proper place for a Crazy Hasan, who was living in the middle of some ruins somewhere. Mr. Nikou'i, not knowing who Crazy Hasan was, reassures the Prime Minister that he would get in touch with the governor on this matter and would inform him as soon as possible. He immediately called the governor and governor took care of Crazy Hasan. Since by then it was past midnight, he postponed calling Mr. Mousavi to the next day. However the Prime Minister did not wait, and very humbly called back at one thirty in the morning just to make sure. He told him the governor had already taken care of Crazy Hasan and that he could sleep peacefully since Hasan was sleeping peacefully in his bed somewhere thanks to the Prime Minister's attention.

Gholm Ali Raja'i, has outdone everyone else by far. He compared Mousavi to Imam Ali who, after twenty five years of solitude, reemerged as caliph fresh, as if all those years had not passed! (Mousavi had five more years to wait and I don't know why he was in such rush!)

Mostafa Tajzadeh recalls when he was the deputy to Khatami in the Ministry of Islamic Guidance in Mousavi's cabinet, he once received a call from Prime Minister Mousavi at home late at night to tell him that he liked the outcome of the project that he has been in charge of. This had been done against protocol, which calls for his sending the message of thanks to the minister in charge, Sayyed Mohammad Khatami.

In reality, the endorsement as such might qualify Mousavi for a mayor of a provincial town , but not for president of a country which is in the middle of an international as well as domestic crisis. While his friends and supporters try to highlight his kindness or compassion, they seem to forget that running a country of seventy-five million takes a little more than a charitable heart. The success of those in the leadership of a country is judged by the success of the institutions, causes, and systematic achievements they leave behind, not by anecdotes about their charity or courtesy, no matter how grand its scale.

Worse than friendly endorsements are those statements which his supporters express here and there to make up for lack of any outstanding feature in Mousavi's record, like, “He is the only one who can save the country,” without thinking why the country should be in such a condition that only Mousavi can save it. Or when they emphasis on his war time management record, without thinking that somewhere people can find out that his record was not so brilliant.

In the absence of any meaningful way to answer hundreds of questions raised by citizens about his candidacy, Mousavi's supporters tend to silence the public and invite them to “be quiet and just vote, we will settle it after the election,” or even appeal to intimidation when they consider a question as being “unappreciative” or “ruining the candidates.” They suffice it to emphasis his only alleged asset, his management skills.

Unfortunately, what is not achieved so far is the enthusiasm and excitement expected in presidential elections. Even the recent speech of Khatami, clarifying that there is no disagreement between him and Mousavi, and his exit from the race has nothing to do with Mousavi, or that there is no one pulling the string in this campaigns, could not help to lift up the general mood of a mild resignation.

The failure to galvanize the public around Mousavi owes itself to a simple miscalculation on the part of the key decision makers of the reform movements. The reformist' goal to achieve an artificial excitement, hope, and optimism around their candidates, and election in general, is too far-fetched and is so devoid of any real rationale that it sounds more like a farce than reality. Abtahi in his blog writes very frequently that “we should take the election among the public.” This is a brave admission on his part that the election has nothing to do with the public. “We have to take it to them, it is not enough to campaign and send text messages among ourselves,” is his unconsciously honest description of the political situation in Iran in this election.

Lack of credentials is also a problem for Mousavi. He is not charismatic. His calculating personality, the way he considers himself as an outsider despite his involvement, indeed, in key positions such as the advisor to the president and member of the Expediency Council, and the unexplained unofficial silence during all these twenty years, and his official silence during all those years that he has been prime minister, do not make him look the way his supporter try to make him out. Though the reformists try to enhance his features by attributing to him qualities he does not possess or exaggerate his record and leave out those which might tarnish his characters, he still does not seem to excite anyone.

However, Mousavi's only asset has remained unmentioned, and that is his ordinariness. His supporters should not trouble themselves to make something out of him that he is not. Indeed, it might be a great opportunity for all of us to take advantage of this current political situation, in which none of the candidates has any worthwhile credentials, and free ourselves from the habit of expecting too much of a candidate, and of elections in general. It is also a great chance to stop expecting sudden changes, which is neither rational nor sensible, from one election. In a recent speech, Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, who is even more unpopular than her husband, said “God willing, we won't have any political prisoners any more.” I have no idea if she meant to be taken seriously (Nabavi joked,“Which country does Mousavi wants to be the president of? Finland?) or if she wanted to mean anything at all. God bless her, she is a Ph.D. and she should know that such statements should have meaning, that not having political prisoners is not determined by God's will, that God has nothing to do with it. The constitution, the judiciary, SAVAMA, the office of the Supreme Leader and dozens of other institutions who are active in running the country officially and unofficially have more say in that regard than God. Also, God is not running for president, Mousavi is.

In spite of all these blunders, Mousavi is a front runner among the reformists, and the reformists' poll shows him much ahead of Ahmadinejad. Given the circumstances, there is a chance that Mousavi will emerge as a winner in this election. But if that happens at all, fear of four more years of Ahmadinejad aside, it owes itself to the political maturity and wisdom of Iranians, the growth of their political consciousness, and the lessons learned from past experience, and not the flaky campaign of candidate who has not reached even a proximity of anything original. Mousavi's supporters should keep their congratulating cards for a while and rewrite them, addressing them to the Iranian people instead. This election is not Mousavi's, and it has never been. This is our election and our victory, a triumph over the tyranny of the rotten idea of seeking a great man to come as our savior. Surely such a victory deserves a big celebration. Liberation always deserve one.


Anonymous said...

What are you proposing for a people of Iran? Do you think people should participate in the coming election or not? Is Mousavi a better choice than Karubi? I will be happy to read your response. thank you.Hooman

Mina said...

Dear Hooman,
Thanks for the comment.
Of course we should vote, even if it means choosing between bad and worse, or choosing between worse and still worse, even if it means picking one of the them by chance. I never agreed with resignation and quitting, even if our participation is useless, or even if it is used as propaganda for the regime.
Unfortunately, none of the candidates in this election are terribly exciting, none have any brilliance in their records and we do not need to make up for it with our exaggerations as supporters of Mousavi do. A more realistic campaign would be more helpful to the public than what has been done so far.
Is Mousavi better than Karoubi? I don't think so. At least Karoubi is Karoubi, while Mousavi's identity is way too ambiguous, and his record even worse than Karoubi's.
I think Karoubi would have a good chance if his wife gets more active and lobbies among the women groups and activists. More likely in this election women will be the tie breakers again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mina,
Thank allot for the reply.
but don't you think Ksroubi or Mousavi are gonna play the people like Khatami did, Isn't it better for people to abandon election and let ahmadinejad come up again because ahmadinejad brings up the real regime face to the world. I think Mousavi or Karubi are just another Khatami.
Thanks Hooman

Mina said...

Dear Hooman,
I do not think that the world would care about the real face of the Islamic Republic one way or another. As a matter of fact, that was the justification for the boycott in the last election which resulted in Ahmadinejad's victory, and as we all noticed nothing happened and the so-called "world" did not give a fig. The world, and each component of it, has its own problems and its own interests to pursue. Our interest and our well-being should be guided by ourselves alone.
As for Mousavi and Karoubi being like Khatami, I wish they were, but they are not. However I know what you mean, and I do not agree with that either. I have several postings on Khatami, and I'm somehow very clear on his presidency and his role and his contribution to the both the Islamic Republic and our political life. We owe a lot to Khatami, and I think he, whether we like his turban or not, has left more democratic institutions behind than anybody else in Iranian politics, including Dr. Mossadegh. Either Iranians have been able to take advantage of them in their interests or snobbishly leave them to the regime to use against them, but that is a different story.
Anyhow, both Karoubi and Mousavi are surely men of the Islamic Republic and neither of them would overthrow the regime for us. But we should remember that the Islamic Republic is the direct result of belief in sudden change instead of gradual progress. As it happens, I do not subscribe to the former. In that regard, I fortunately have science and history on my side.

Anonymous said...

There are some indications that Karoubi is not suited for being the next president of Iran. I would rather choose Mousavi over Karoubi for the latter shows signs of being very much close to the "Velayate Faghih" (Karoubi hey khodesho be "maghame rahbariye" sabegho fe'li michasboone). This is not to say that Mousavi is not a great supporter of the fundamentals of this oppressive system. Surely, none of them are going to topple this regime, but at least, voting for Mousavi can make us hopeful for having a less strict political atmosphere. This will result in people to become more educated. We must remember that it was during Khatami's time that many political issues were revealed to the people. That being said, I would not say that Khatami was superior to Mossadeq in terms of contributing to Iran. Khatami could not fulfill many of his promises, but Mossadeq did try to bring democracy to iran. If CIA and the British Intelligence Service had not succeeded to take democracy from Iran via the Ajax coup, Iran would have been a much better place than what it is now. Also, I admire your efforts to maintain this blog.


Anonymous said...


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