Iranian administration losing legitimacy, says expert

As the Iranian government continues to crack down on citizens protesting against the recent disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an expert on Iran at Washington University in St. Louis says the Iranian administration wants the legitimacy of having won an election without actually having allowed a true election to take place.

Robert Canfield
Robert Canfield

“The administration’s behavior reveals that it cannot bear to have the public reject it openly, so it is using violent means to contain the obvious outrage that permeates the society,” said Robert L. Canfield, Ph.D., professor of anthropology; Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Studies; and International and Area Studies, all in Arts & Sciences.

Canfield has been studying the Islamic culture of Central Asia, including Iran, since the early 1980s. He teaches a course on Greater Central Asia: History, Culture and Politics, which focuses on Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The administration in Iran wants to seem legitimate in ‘democratic’ terms without being willing to subject themselves to an open electoral process,” Canfield said.

He claims the current administration has been generally losing its legitimacy over time.

“Certain elements in the population are evidently in support of Ahmadinejad, but behind the whole system is a religious pretense that has undermined the general respect of the population for authentic religious faith,” Canfield said. “The religious ‘experts’ in power have become excessively rich under this system and their abuses now resemble those of the super-rich Western class allied with the Shah in the 1970s, against which the Islamic Revolution took place.”

While modern Iran has a history of long periods of stability punctuated by massive public uprisings, like those in the 1970s and early 1990s, if this administration does not relent, said Canfield, it will eventually have to deal with a huge public explosion like that of 1978-79.