Given the nature of the Iranian political system, few observers would feign that they did not know that the outcome of this particular election was pre-ordained. Yet Ahmadinejad’s chief rival, Hossein Mousavi, his supporters and other so-called moderate candidates are contesting the election. They claim that the vote was rigged, and have decided to capture that which they could not through the ballot by recourse to massive protests.
Probably taken aback by the weight of the demonstrations, the all-powerful Iranian Guardian Council has opted to recount the vote exclusively in those areas where the losers charge that their chances of winning were wrenched from them fraudulently. But Mousavi wants a new election, which he might or might not get. Yet his desire for a new election can only be interpreted as self-serving because it is designed solely for his personal aggrandizement—to ensure that he emerges as victor in the second election.
Strangely, some are supportive of Mousavi’s putsch, even though second elections have never been held in any existing democracies. Stranger than Mousavi’s call for a second election is the lopsided analysis that has unleashed a misguided notion of Iran as a democracy. This notion has erupted on account of an election and has been repeated over and over. But even elementary school children who have been following electoral politics know that elections do not make for democracy, especially in a theocratic state.
It is obvious that all those who project themselves as political analysts understand what manner of political entity Iran is. If this is true, one cannot but wonder in silence and despair why some of these so-called experts in political commentary are assigning to the theocratic Iranian state attributes of a democracy that they well know do not exists in that country’s political system.
The concept theocracy is derived from the Greek word theokratia, a compound word consisting of two terms: theos and kratein, translated as “god” and “to rule”, respectively. A theocracy, therefore, can be defined as a state in which the ruling elites are guided by the belief in a god or by specific religious beliefs. The rulers in a theocracy tend to see themselves as messengers of their god who designated them to rule their people. The word republic comes to us from the Latin phrase res publica that can be translated as “public thing”. Thus, a republic is a country that is not ruled by a hereditary monarch, a political system in which the people have some input into how they are governed.
The Islamic Republic of Iran can be defined as a theocratic-republic, combining the features of theocratic rule with some public input into the governing of the country. Contrast this with democracy—from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía), meaning "popular government"—and you begin to approximate how far Iran is from a democracy. Whereas theocracy is a religious oligarchy, democracy is rule by popular will. This distinction should at least be abundantly clear to the talking heads who adorn our television screens uninvited every day.
Political analysis is the articulation of informed opinion. It isn’t a science. It follows a pattern of observing human action in society, drawing general conclusions about how people would behave under, or react to, certain situations or circumstances, and explaining these to the larger society. Imbued with even the slightest tinge of ideological proclivity, the entire analysis becomes overly-loaded with inconsequential rant, which explains what analysis of the 2009 Iranian presidential election has become in some Western media outlets. It is not enough to extrapolate from the past to the present. Because human nature is inconstant, there is no guarantee that people are going to react to similar situations the same way in 2009 as they did in previous Iranian elections.