Whatever the outcome of the political crisis in Iran will be in the long term, the times when ruling hardliners could claim that the country was united behind the conservative ideologies embodied in the Supreme Leader are truly over. The pillars of the Islamic Republic were shaken profoundly in the last weeks of June as two million demonstrators took to the streets of Iran to stand up against a supposedly rigged election.
The pictures of President Ahmadinejad's most serious challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi, and his campaign colour green, were decorating the posters and banners of the angry demonstrators on Tehran's streets. But is Moussavi really the right man to be at the forefront of what has been called Iran's 'velvet revolution'?
Iran's political system does not allow a free selection of candidates to run for the presidential elections. In fact, it is the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated body, that is responsible for approving each candidate. Only those who passed the Council's rigorous tests were allowed to run against President Ahmadinejad. Commitment and loyalty to the established authoritative hierarchical structure, and especially to the Supreme Leader, are the most important requirements for the approval of a candidate.
Therefore, it seems ironic that Moussavi, who obviously seems to have matched these criteria, came to be seen as the leader of an opposition that was perceived as standing for greater freedom.
Moussavi, who served as Iran's Prime Minister from 1981-1989, is by no means the liberal reformist many observers wanted him to be. He was at the heart of a regime that boasts the highest execution rate in the history of the Islamic Republic to date. Political mass executions in 1988 and human-rights violations, widely documented by Amnesty International, were overseen by his government.
Moussavi's political views might have changed in favour of a more reformist agenda over the 20 years of his absence from politics, but his actions during the 1980s have not been forgotten. Even so, Moussavi and his backers have been closest to the dream of greater freedom for the protesters. Moussavi has to be seen as reformist within the conservative constraints of the Islamic Republic and--whatever his legacy--by standing behind him, Iranians had hoped to build on their limited...