By Mina Khanlarzadeh
Many people, rural or urban, are disillusioned with Ahmadinejad's promises of economic justice as a direct result of their experiences during these four years of his presidency. The three weeks before the presidential election the other three candidates made loud accusations about the mismanagement committed by Ahmadinejad's administration. The presidential debates were important, particularly Ahmadinejad's misleading graphs during his debate with Karoubi, which he used to proclaim his economic achievements. These graphs were mostly comparisons between the economic conditions of his and previous presidencies (i.e., those of Khatami and Hashemi). A day after the Ahmadinejad-Karoubi debate, Mousavi showed the true graphs during his debate with Karoubi and compared them with Ahmaidnejad's version. Mousavi explained that all his data was taken from Central Bank of Iran. Mousavi's explanation and numbers accorded with people's financial hardships and frustrations and countered Ahmadinejad's hollow claims. The other important debate, and the hardest one for Ahmadinejad, was with Rezaie. Ahmadinajed claimed that unemployment rates had decreased during his presidency. Rezaie pointed out that, during Ahmadinejad's presidency, the definition of unemployment has changed (from two days of work per week to two hours of work per week) and therefore Ahmadinejad's claims are a manipulation at best. Since Ahmadinejad and Rezaei are both principalists (Osoulger), Rezaei's criticism of Ahmadinejad's foreign policy and economic mismanagement are particularly powerful. This caused people to take Mousavi's words more seriously; it is not simply a fight between a reformist and a principalist.
The reforms that many people in Iran seek are unachievable by either reformists or principalists. Khatami, a former reformist president from 1997 to 2005, was limited by the governmental structure and was a disappointment to many Iranians. Under the pressure of the current government, however, it is hard to organize an independent political movement that reflects the sociopolitical aspects of what many Iranians seek to achieve. Many political activists, such as socialists, were imprisoned or killed after the revolution. Given the current circumstances, the best chance for reform is within the system itself, through legal avenues such as elections (consider, e.g., the reform movement and the green movement). As the post-election protests showed us, even a movement within the establishment can cost physical punishment, imprisonment, and even human life. To many Iranian people, reformists like Mousavi who are part of the system and care about socioeconomic justice are the path to real change.
These war threats have been the most important national crisis for all Iranians. People throughout the political spectrum fell silent about domestic issues in order to unify against a possible war. The threat of war, combined with Ahmadinejad's bombastic nationalistic rhetoric, overshadowed his failed domestic policies for some Iranians. In fact, some people throughout the Middle East who are tired of threats and humiliation consider Ahmadinejad to be a hero. Although Ahmadinejad deserved to be criticized for domestic policy, these shortcomings have been overshadowed by Ahmadinejad's strong stance in defense of Iran's right to have nuclear facilities, national dignity, and sovereignty.