The popularity of Iran's controversial leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is surging almost a year after he unexpectedly won closely contested presidential elections, Iranian officials and western diplomats said on Tuesday.Naturally, I'm very pleased to hear this. Now, like Chavez, Ahmadinejad has to think about what to do with the term limits thingy.
Attributing his success to his populist style and fortnightly meet-the-people tours of the country, the sources said, as matters stand, Mr Ahmadinejad was the clear favourite to win a second term in 2009. The perception that the president was standing up to the US over the nuclear issue was also boosting his standing.
"He's more popular now than a year ago. He's on the rise," said Nasser Hadian-Jazy, a professor of political science at Tehran University. "I guess he has a 70% approval rating right now. He portrays himself as a simple man doing an honest job. He's comfortable communicating with ordinary people." (Ewen MacAskill and Simon Tisdall, "Ahmadinejad 'Has 70% Approval Rating,'" The Guardian, 20 June 2006)
The neoliberal "reformists" are correct, however, that the President of Iran has yet to get control of the oil industry (headed by a leftover from the Khatami years) and the Central Bank (staffed by US-trained economists) in Iran -- even the Parliament, let alone the Guardian and Expediency councils, is not quite on his side on structural economic changes beyond fiscal policy:
Mohammad Atrianfar, founder of the leading reformist newspaper Shargh and an ally of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the president's rival, said Mr Ahmadinejad would not have it all his own way. "The reform movement is alive, despite last year's defeat," he said, although he added it would take some time to regroup. Meanwhile, the government was mishandling economic policy, and that could be its undoing.I added this bit from IRNA to Rostam Pourzal's latest that I published in MRZine:
"The present economy, due to the rate of oil prices, is in a good situation. But the management of the state sector is very bad. I can compare him to a wicked child who has inherited a large amount of money and goes on a spending spree. He has taken horrid and rushed decisions."
Mr Atrianfar said that windfall oil revenue was being squandered through state handouts to impoverished provinces and commodity subsidies. But there was insufficient investment in long-term projects and infrastructure, foreign investment was falling, and the country was suffering capital flight and a brain drain. (MacAskill and Tisdall, 20 June 2006)
"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . . . criticized the ongoing privatization scheme, which has turned into a means for the 'looting of national wealth.'I hope that, soon, he will be so popular that the Majlis, the Guardian Council, etc. will be compelled to go along and he will be able to pass a law that would allow laborers to get factories free of charge and run them.
'I've heard that a factory, worth rls 300 billion (USD 32.715 million), is offered at rls 1.050 billion (USD 114,504) . . . . Had the law allowed, we would have given the production unit to laborers free of charge so that it would both remain active and earn profit for the government,' said Ahmadinejad in a speech to the locals.
He said his government does support private investment and business, while believing that the policy should not encourage bankruptcy of workshops, low production, lay-offs and plunder of national wealth.
He insisted, 'The Iranian nation does not accept the sort of privatization at all'" ("Ahmadinejad Protests Plundering National Wealth," IRNA, 9 June 2006).