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Meshkini: Reform or Repression?

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The death of Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, the powerful speaker of the Islamic Republic’s Assembly of Experts, has started a conversation about whether or not this could lead to political reform in Iran. Indeed, one of his potential successors, Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been mentioned as a favorite to take Meshkini’s place as head of the Assembly. Rafsanjani sits on both the Assembly and the powerful Expediency Committee, and served consecutive terms as Iranian president. He is generally considered to be more moderate and friendly to the West, although he had a key role in appointing Ayatollah Khamenei to power.

However, we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that this will lead to broad political reform in Iran. There are a couple of problems with this argument, the first of which being Rafsanjani’s own political power. He is widely viewed as a political insider by the people of Tehran. His position of power and wealth was often blamed for the nation’s economic troubles, and his constituency has punished him for it:

This image of an all-powerful godfather figure has been seriously damaged in recent years. Hashemi Rafsanjani’s first major failure occurred during the parliamentary elections of 2000, when the voters of Tehran refused to give him their support, and the one time speaker of three parliaments and the winner oftwo presidential elections had to endure the humiliation of not even being among the top 30 elected MP’s of the capital. The 2005 presidential election delivered an even more serious blow to Hashemi Rafsanjani’s reputation, when he lost the presidential marathon to the populist upstart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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