The patient resilience of Iran’s reformers

Laura Secor writes: While President Trump basked in the flattery of Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy on Friday, about 75 percent of Iranian voters turned out to repudiate an authoritarian populist and re-elect their moderate president, Hassan Rouhani. Mr. Rouhani ran against extremism and on the promise of human rights, civil liberties, rational economic management and engagement with the world — a platform that won him 57 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 38.5 percent.

It wasn’t the first time Iranian voters expressed their preference for these values. They have done so repeatedly, overcoming every obstacle a repressive state can thrust in their way. The fact that such demands may not be met — and may even result in significant sacrifice for those who make them most vociferously — does not make them less meaningful, but more so.

It’s true that the Iranian system offers limited choice and the president has limited power. The regime has policed its boundaries and eliminated true challenges to the entrenched interests of its security apparatus and clerical elite. But that is precisely why Iranian voter behavior deserves attention. Because the vehicles that carry the popular will to the highest echelons of the Iranian regime are imperfect, the electorate and the politicians seeking its favor have learned, over the course of decades, to play a long game, wedging the system open with the force of their numbers and refusing to acquiesce silently in their exclusion. The patience and persistence of Iranian civic culture is the longer story of Iran’s revolution, and one of the longest stories in the Middle East, having outlived many uprisings and protest movements. [Continue reading…]

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