Former Iranian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei. January 24, 2023

Former Iran Spokesman Says Only Ballot Box Can Save The Country

Wednesday, 01/25/2023

Four months after the start of nationwide protests in Iran, politicians and academics have begun probing into the consequences and implications of the movement.

Speaking at a seminar about the protests and their socio-economic and political implications, Former Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei opined that the Iranian government can still prevent an upcoming crises by correcting its policies and reform its domestic politics.

Rabiei, who served under former President Hassan Rouhani, said that recent developments showed that what can save the country from further trouble is the ballot box. He added: "Ballot boxes can turn the outcry in the streets into systematic behavior.

Hardliners in Iran have controlled latest parliamentary and presidential elections tightly, disqualifying so-called reformist from running and establishing full control over the government. Those who were prevented from a share of power, including many from Rouhani administration, blame the current political and economic crisis on this monopoly of power by hardliners.

Rabiei added that reforms also need to be made in the economic, cultural and media policies, stressing that cultural values in Iran should be made consistent with the modern thinking of the young generation.

"Those involved in business have very well realized that the most important impact of recent protests is lack of confidence in the economy and lack of predictability of economic trends. Lack of investment in recent years is an outcome of insecurity. Now it is not only academic and scientific elites that leave the country for good; investors and entrepreneurs are also emigrating," Rabiei said.

Participants at the seminar on protests. January 24, 2023

He pointed out that unlike what Iranian hardliners say, sanctions have left a badly hurt the economy and the poor working class in Iran. At the same time, if Iran does not send signals of reform to the outside world, further sanctions will be on their way to exert more pressure on the economy. He urged officials to avoid further tensions in Iran’s foreign policy by refraining from provocative and outlandish analyses."

Meanwhile, prominent sociologist Mohammad Fazeli said at the conference sponsored by Donya-ye Eqtesad daily that "Both sides in the Iranian protests need to make concessions. But this needs to start with the government, although both sides should come forward step by step."

Economist and former Central bank Governor Hossein Abdoh Tabrizi said: "By looking at the protests, one might think initially that they are not predominantly rooted in the economy. Nonetheless, there are massive economic grievances such as the problems of recession, inflation, unemployment, financial corruption, and lack of investment lingering for a long time. Undoubtedly, a majority of the people are concerned about these problems."

He said: "Iranian officials have never looked at economics as a science. So, everyone including officials tend to express opinions without having any expertise.

Meanwhile, Iranian journalist and political analyst Ahmad Zeidabadi, said that during the protests "If the government's instinct for survival gives way to changes, and protesters show some flexibility, then everything will look better. Previous government supporters have now turned into militant elements while former militants have become more violent. This is not in anyone's interest."

Zeidabadi is one of a few people who is not a hardliner but allowed to regularly express opinions in newspapers as long as he does not question Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the essence of the regime.

He then expressed concern about a revolution, echoing the regime’s alarmist propaganda to dissuade the people from pursuing a regime change. "My preference is not to choose confrontation and regime change as there is no chance for our victory in the short-run. If the situation becomes too unstable, then there will be a collapse. Then, the masses might follow a Fascist individual and totalitarianism might prevail. The only chance for the government is to show signs of change. We have only these two approaches ahead of us."

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