Iranian Political Culture

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The Impact of Iranian Political Culture on Democratic Reforms
Western powers and Iran have had rocky relations for a long time, both holding deeply seeded resentment for the other that dates back much farther than the reign of current rulers from either side. The bad blood between a theocratic Iran and democratic West have been cause for much turmoil for regimes in Iran as they strive to industrialize while at the same time rejecting Western democratic ideals that, in the course of history, accompany long term economic growth. The political culture of Iran is a result of many years of distrust of American and European powers and thus is very much anti-Western, political and clerical leaders have for decades used this sentiment as means to maintain power and reject democratic reforms. It is the political culture of Iran and the culture of fierce Iranian and Islamic nationalism that has slowed much of the democratic development in the country.
Iranian Political System
Iran’s political landscape is complex to say the least, and despite popular American belief it is not fair to classify Iran and the government as a totalitarian regime (Kesselman, Krieger and Joseph 615). A traditional definition of a totalitarian regime is a government in which the leaders, generally a small group of elites, exercise control of public and private life (Kesselman, Krieger and Joseph ch. 1). While it is true that Iran has an assembly of religious clerics whom play a role in determining how the country is run, in recent years the control over public and private life have slipped. Furthermore, the people are responsible for electing the president and legislative branch, Islamic Majles. Iran also maintains a constitution that is a mix of democracy and th...

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...ions in 2009 in which Ahmadinejad won by a landslide, over 90%, despite a vigorous challenge from the opposition, are further evidence of how the anti-Western political culture hinders the development of democracy. One can look back further, to the Islamic Revolution, to see how accusations of the shah “dissemination Western culture” alone led to a complete overthrow of the government.
Past and present political developments in Iran very clearly demonstrate how anger over the 1953 coup and past involvement of foreign powers in Iranian affairs are still very present in the minds of the Iranian voters, clerics and politicians. From the Islamic revolution to recent elections, the threat of Western encroachment in Iranian affairs has continued to play a large role in how the country votes, and consequently how democratic institutions have developed or regressed.

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