What Will Ahmadinejad Do After Leaving Office?

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Conservative newspaper Ebtekar speculated on the topic of what president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his controversial Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei will do once they leave office early August. According to Ebtekar, “Although this issue always exists, there has never been as much ambiguity about the future of a president and his deputies as there is about Ahmadinejad and his inner circle.”

When Rafsanjani left the presidency in 1997, he was head of the Expediency Council and deputy of the Assembly of Experts and according to Ebtekar, “had the trust of the supreme leader and was one of the top clerics in the country and therefore, there was not much concern about this political future after he left the presidency.” Ebtekar reported that when Mohammad Khatami left office in 2005, “Although he had a lot of opposition among influential institutions within the system, his conduct did not cause concern,” adding that he chose to spend his time in the “non-governmental atmosphere,” where he was referred to as the “former president of Iran.”

The article does not mention the three previous presidents of the Islamic Republic, perhaps because the uncertain first decade of the revolution is not a strong indicator of the Islamic Republic’s current trends. However, Hojat al-Islam Ali Khamenei became the supreme leader, Mohammad-Ali Rajaei was assassinated by the MEK and Abulhassan Banisadr was impeached and quickly later fled Iran.

“During the years of his presidency, Ahmadinejad has disturbed equations so much,” wrote Ebtekar, “that he had made it difficult to answer what he will do at the end of the his presidency.” The article continued, “During his first term Ahmadinejad was welcomed by all of the Principilists and forces of the system, and he was the strength and pride of the Principilists. Even those who opposed his actions preferred to not make their opposition public. However, during his second term he turned the page … and all the pride the Principilists had in him is gone.”

“One of his former supporters,” Ebtekar wrote, “prayed that these last twenty days of his presidency pass quickly. And another said that Ahmadinejad’s era must be forgotten.”

Ebtekar continued, “Now that Ahmadinejad’s relationships with influential figures and institutions in the system are broken, predicting his future is not an easy task. It is difficult to predict what he will want to do, and it will be difficult to predict what the system will want to do to him.” Ahmadinenad and Mashaei both have been summoned to court as a result of a complaint filed by a parliamentary committee, though the severity of the charge is not clear.

“But he is not alone,” wrote Ebtekar. “In his eight years of governing, Ahmadinejad has gathered individuals around himself at the end of his presidency who cannot be assigned to any of the political factions of the country, just like himself.”

The article explained that much of the criticism Ahmadinejad received was due to this relationship with Mashaei, whom he stood by up to the very end, even “accompanying to the minister of interior” to register as a candidate for the presidency. Based on Mashaei’s latest interview with Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA), much can be gleaned about the future of Ahmadinejad and Mashaei.

When asked if he and Ahmadinejad would form a political party after the end of Ahmadinejad’s term, Mashaei said, “We do not believe in political parties. Ahmadinejad’s discourse is the same discourse of the people and the Islamic revolution.” He added that Ahmadinejad “presented the discourse about the prophets, millenarianism and the Islamic Revolution” and that “I am not worried that this discourse will be sidelined.”

Ahmadinejad had in his final years talked about “spring” in vague terms in his speeches and even once in his United Nations General Assembly speech. He had also referred to Mashaei as a “man of spring.” When asked about the “spring discourse,” Mashaei responded, “Ahmadinejad presented this discourse at the national and international level and the spring discourse is in reality a beautiful, deep and elevated discourse of millenarianism, a promising bright future for humanity for the benefit of everyone.” Mashaei continued, “It’s possible that on this discourse there will be various activities and cultural steps taken, and someone might start a foundation in this field.” Perhaps to alleviate fears that they have already started such a foundation, Mashaei added, “A plan from us on this does not exist right now.”

(Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) and First Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei attend a ceremony in Tehran July 22, 2009.  REUTERS/Yalda Moaiery)