The Revolt of the Mullahs

Iran's election fiasco seemingly confirmed for Iranian reformists a conclusion that tens of millions of Iranian citizens reached long ago - the country's Islamic government, as it exists today, is beyond rehabilitation. Whether ordinary Iranians now believe that the reformers are also beyond redemption is an open question.

Iranian reformers had tried (to no avail) since the landslide 1997 election of President Mohammed Khatami, to change the system from within. Iranians were initially hopeful, but after years of waiting in vain they grew impatient. Now they are despondent.

Reformists were justly criticized for lacking unity and resolve, but in truth their greatest impediment was a lack of constitutional authority. Power in Iran lies in the hands of the unelected conservative establishment, namely Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the twelve-member Islamic Guardian Council. They have no intention of parting with it.

The Guardian Council's barring of over 2,000 mostly reformist candidates from participating in the parliamentary elections was the last straw. Reformist parties boycotted the vote. Despite a frenzied public relations campaign by regime officials, only half of all eligible voters participated. In Tehran, the country's political heart and soul, less than a third of the electorate turned out.