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Clément THERME

Iran's Presidential Election: a Distorted Western Perspective?

Actuelle de l'Ifri, juin 2013

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Clément Therme is a Research Associate, CADIS and CETOBAC at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS). He is the co-editor (with Houchang E. Chehabi and Farhad Khosrokhavar) of a book entitled Iran and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century (Mazda Publishers, 2013).

The election of a religious leader at the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran contradicts many of the analyses of western media and experts on Iranian politics. So-called neoconservative experts have been trying to portray the election’s outcome as a direct consequence of the sanction policy officially designed to provoke a reversal in Iranian nuclear policy. Most western experts on Iran insisted on applying the 2009 presidential elections process’ model to the 2013 contest, implying that the result would be engineered by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah  Ali Khamenei. This conviction was crucial in presenting Saeed Jalili as the most likely winner of the presidential election. Nevertheless, beyond the Iranian case, the final result primarily indicated the methodological limit of any political analysis pretending to predict the result of an election process. Moreover, one of the problems with the western view towards Iranian politics is the ideological prism through which Iran is portrayed in western media, most particularly in France[1]. This view insisted on the rise of the security apparatus inside the Islamic state and the manipulation of popular feelings by the political elite in order to enhance the state’s authority. Without denying the importance of the security apparatus in the functioning of the Islamic state, especially after the protests of June 2009, it is important to note that the ruling elite was still confident enough to allow the election of the candidate most opposed to the increasing security atmosphere during the two mandates of Mahmud Ahmadinejad (2005-13).


[1] For instance, Le Monde covered the Iranian presidential election extensively insisting in its editing line on the insignificance of an election process in a religious dictatorship.

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