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LAT: Iran's election opens generational fissure

Author: Ramin Jahanbegloo
June 17, 2009


Ever since the first days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, there have been two sovereignties in Iran: one divine and one popular.

The popular part of the equation is codified in Iran's Constitution, which calls for the popular election of a president and parliament. Divine sovereignty is believed to derive from God's will, as interpreted by Shiite institutions that bestow power on the faqih, or supreme leader -- currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Increasingly, the divine sovereignty has been less about religion than about political theology. As for the popular sovereignty, it has found its due place in the social work and political action of Iranian civil society. The presence of these two incompatible and conflicting conceptions of sovereignty, authority and legitimacy has always been a bone of contention in Iranian politics, often defining the ideological contours of the political power struggle.

The present crisis in Iran after the presidential election is rooted in the popular quest for the democratization of the state and society, and the conservative reaction and opposition to it. Another factor distinguishing the current political crisis from the previous instances of political factionalism and internal power struggle is a deep-seated ideological structure inherited from the Iranian revolution.

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