A portion of the Akhbar Rooz interview with Zamaneh Editor-in-Chief Mohammadreza Nikfar about the outcome of 2013 presidential election in Iran and its significance.

Akhbar Rooz: What do you think about the election; can the election of Mr. Rohani be regarded as a victory for the people of Iran?

Mohammadreza Nikfar: The election was “engineered.” However, as all engineers know, technology is fraught with risk and there are always unpredicted contingencies that can throw things out of order. Every structure has a weak point, and the atomic issue was what threw things out of the set framework and broke the big taboo.

Many groups of people validly saw uranium and destitution intertwined and wanted a president who claimed he was willing to take a path where the wheels of the country's economy will not be sacrificed at the altar of turning the wheels of the atomic centrifuges.

The election was engineered in the sense that a number of figures from the political system were brought forth, and the people were only allowed to choose from amongst them. These figures belong to different factions in the country.

From the atomic perspective, we can look at the issue in this manner: in the Islamic Republic, uranium is a codename. It can be regarded as the codename for a kind of Mafia group that makes money through secret dealings and smuggling. But those who are stockholders in the Islamic Republic see their interest  in a competitive market with a capitalist rationale, with less tension in their relations with the outside world. These forces were able to win this election campaign.

Is this in the interest of the people? Yes. The people said no to Jalili, which can be seen as a direct no to Khamenei and the atomic military Mafia. Now they can peek from behind a “purple” screen, which is perhaps thinner than the former black screen, and this somewhat ties the hands of the authorities and to some degree protects against some of the recent oppressive and criminal methods.

Ali Khamenei and the Guardian Council probably expected that the people would vote for the one candidate that was the most distant from the views of the Leader. Why did they approve Rohani’s candidacy?

MN: We cannot be certain of  what has passed through their heads and what debates have taken place in their closed doors. However, even these heavily controlled election debates, especially those concerning the atomic issue, revealed that the regime should not be regarded as a command centre with obedient forces, intricate plans and iron-clad discipline. The regime is a shareholding company. Individual and group shares rise and fall. The system is not solely based on coordination and adherence. It contains significant interaction and conflict in a pressure-filled arena prone to shake-ups.

Is Mr. Rohani a symbol of change in the government’s policies?

MN: One thing is certain. A large portion of the Islamic regime, one with significant economic, symbolic and networking capital, is fed up with the chaos and tensions created by the Ahmadinejad circle. They are looking for a calmer, more competitive environment and normalized relations with the outside world in order to exploit their capital. The reasoning of Hassan Rohani is their reasoning, and this will affect some change in government policies that will benefit those at the top with a capitalist rationale.

Will we see any change in terms of providing basic citizen rights such as freedom of the press, the release of political prisoners, less discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities, improved labour conditions…?

MN: We should not be too optimistic and begin fantasizing. It all depends on the extent to which people will remain organized and aware and make their presence felt.

What tools do the people have in order to push the president to realize their demands and affect change?

MN: Getting organized, getting informed and the media activity.

A group of people boycotted the election in protest. What can they do to make their protest visible and influence future developments?

MN: These are the true forces looking for a change. The person who says he or she is not willing to write the name of any of the candidates presented by the regime on the ballot is looking for a fundamental change. What has stopped change in Iran is the willingness of large groups of people to go along with the government as their various interests coincide with those of the government, be they ideological, biographical, the distribution of benefits, or the distribution of information.

The main axis for making an effective movement is based on an internal dialogue among the people. We can say the election, for reasons that have to be examined on their own, became the grounds for a widespread exchange among the people. Those who boycotted the election were also involved in this exchange. And they were perhaps more active than the ones who did in fact vote. Now it is essential to keep this exchange alive, by presenting powerful and mobilizing issues such as destitution, unemployment, social depression, international isolation and the connection of all these issues with the atomic question as well as repression. It is now time to bring forth the demands. Primarily, the liberation of political prisoners, including the release of Karroubi, Rahnavard and Mousavi, would have a symbolic effect.

 

[translated from the Persian original]