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Two years after Iran's marred election, hard-liners anything but triumphant

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the 2009 winner by a landslide, and his aides have been dismissed by conservative rivals and clerics as a "deviant current" in Iran's theocracy.

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"I won't be going out today for the silent pavement crawl," she adds. "I don't know why they go out today. The factions between the Leader and Ahmadinejad are eating each other alive; why distract them from the carnage and feed them our own?"

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Khamenei's approach criticized as reactive

Khamenei has sought to quell the power struggle, which erupted in April when the president fired from his cabinet the intelligence minister. Khamenei, who makes all final decisions of state and vets key security posts, reinstated the minister.

Ahmadinejad refused to attend any meetings for 11 days, and finally acquiesced. But not before a tidal wave of criticism had built up charging arrogance on his part.

The president was being targeted so ferociously that it could not have come without the supreme leader’s blessing.

“It suggests [Khamenei] doesn’t have a very long-term vision,” says Ms. Farhi. “He constantly accuses other Iranian political elites of lacking wisdom, but his actions of the last several years have shown … a very improvised and reactive manner … focused on the survival and the strength of his office, rather than building institutions.”

Crucial tests coming up

Crucial tests are on the horizon, beginning with elections to the parliament, or Majlis, in March 2012. Then two years from now, in June 2013, will be the next presidential vote – though that is a lifetime away in Iranian political terms.

"From divinity to deviancy, isn't that the path of all theocracies?" asks one Iranian analyst now living in London, who, like more than 4,000 others, was arrested during the 2009 postelection unrest.

"Unfortunately for Iran, Ahmadinejad is incapable of long-term planning and all he sees right now is the coming Majlis elections," says the analyst. "[He] thinks his supporters inside the Majlis will secure his presidential seat. Khamenei prefers Ahmadinejad to finish a quiet full term in office. Whether he gets to or not is up to Ahmadinejad."

But the president has shown little sign of keeping quiet, nor have his right-wing opponents shown any sign of letting up.

Protesting higher gas and electricity bills

And there are other problems. Iran’s economy is not helped by United States and United Nations sanctions. And Ahmadinejad has overseen an unpopular removal of subsidies on everything from utilities to gasoline.

Serious protests have not broken out, as some predicted. But there has been another form of protest: Some people have gone to the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – the father of revolution, who promised free bus rides, housing, and education – and pushed their recently raised gas and electricity bills through the slits meant for donations.

"I am exhausted and am wondering if it's not better to be bored in Barnsley, [England, or] woebegone in Winnipeg, [Canada, rather] than to be a nationalist standing firm in [Iran]," says the disheartened opposition voter in Tehran.

"We went out two years ago and our kind of [Westernized middle-class] people got killed and arrested. Now it's the turn of the people who are whining about their gas bills ... who are soon to have [nothing] to lose. Let them go out.”

Some appeared to do so today.

“A large part of Iranian society has just tuned out,” says Farhi in Hawaii. “They say, ‘These people are crazy. Let them continue their fight. Once they bloody themselves completely, maybe we will come back to the conversation.’ ”


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