The political unrest in Iran over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election marks a key point in the ideological struggle between ultra-conservatives and reformers, according to analysts.
Thirty years after the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the two factions are finding co-habitation increasingly difficult and the show of force in the wake of the disputed elections has unleashed a chain reaction.
The effect on the nature and orientation of the regime in Iran remains unpredictable with some influential figures yet to take sides.
One key element is that the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who “has always tried to play an arbitration role in order to maintain the illusion of being an honest broker ... came out so quickly in support of Ahmadinejad,” said Rouzbeh Parsi, Iran researcher at the Paris-based Institute of Security Studies.
While there are plenty of indications that the opposition supporters who have taken to the streets to cry foul over the election results have a valid grievance, in a place like Iran proof is hard to come by, analysts say.
“Nobody was allowed to follow the ballot boxes ... that is why the opposition does not accept the partial recount,” Parsi said.
“A lot of things make [the result] impossible even if we don’t have proof,” said Shahram Chubin of the Carnegie Institute in Europe.
Thierry Coville, of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, has no doubt that massive electoral fraud has been committed.
“There’s been an electoral hold-up,” he said.
“They massively rigged it so you have two-thirds, one-third in order to eliminate the reformists,” he added, speaking of a “coup d’etat in disguise.”
According to the official results, Ahmadinejad won by a thumping majority of 63 percent against just 34 percent for opposition runner-up Mir Hossein Mousavi, a gap of 11 million votes.
But if the electorate is being cheated then the goal for the “extremist right wing circles” around Ahmadinejad “is to see an Islamic state established once and for all,” Parsi said.
“They do not trust the people,” he said.
Chubin said he sees the emergence of “two very different assumptions of what Iran should be.”
On the one hand there are those who want to see “political accountability and institutions that work properly” while the other faction “emphasizes the religious legitimacy, lives on crises, on confronting the world.”
What is clear at the moment is that Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist Iranian leader and also a candidate in the presidential election, are getting worsted because the ultra-conservatives have “the means of repression,” he added.
Meanwhile, the “conservative traditionalists” like parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani and Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Khamenei “will have to take sides if the confrontation persists,” he added.
According to Tehran press last week, Larijani and more than 100 MPs refused to attend a victory dinner party hosted by President Ahmadinejad.
The “conservative modernists” and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will similarly have to choose sides.
Rafsanjani, head of state from 1988 to 1997, remains an influential figure and is chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the only body which can elect, monitor or even dismiss the Supreme Leader of Iran.