Weekend Roundup: Why the ‘Persian Spring’ May Succeed Where the Arab Spring Failed

Could it be that the ‘Persian Spring,’ manifested by the anti-hard-line vote this week in which over 60 percent of Iran’s eligible electorate went to the polls, has a better chance to succeed than the Arab Spring?

Unlike the brittle autocracies in most of the Arab world that shattered when challenged, Iran has a robust civil society combined with quasi-democratic institutions put in place after the revolution in 1979 that seemingly enable the country to evolve instead of explode. And Iranians are intent on making their own changes without the outside interventions that have roiled the broader Mideast region in recent years.

As Reza Marashi writes, “These elections reflect Iranian society’s continued desire to bring about change through gradual evolution rather than radical upheaval. They are demanding pragmatic and democratic reform within the existing system. No one is calling for a revolution, and a diverse socioeconomic swath of Iranian society rejects foreign interference in its politics.” Former Iranian National Security Council member Hossein Mousavian hopes the West now grasps that his country has the capacity and institutions to make change on its own terms. “Iranians who went to the voting booths have a palpable sense of the indifference of the West to the existence of democracy and elections in Iran,” he testily writes. While no one expects changes overnight, it is clear that, as Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo notes, “the results amounted to a popular endorsement of [President Hassan] Rouhani’s policy of “constructive and dignified engagement with the world.” Their real impact, he adds, “will be felt in the next few years when the battle for the next supreme leader starts.” Negar Mortazavi explains the unique conjunction of foreign policy shifts, political coalitions and social media that —> Read More