A bittersweet farewell to Iran’s sixth president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad adresses his weekly Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University on August 2, 2013 as Iran marks al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day. (AFP)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will officially leave office on Friday, to be replaced by Hassan Rouhani, the president-elect. Two terms totaling eight years have passed since Ahmadinejad ran his first election campaign with the slogans of helping the poor, strengthening the economy, and promoting freedom for the youth and media.

Post-presidency, he plans to establish the Iranian University, the state-run Mehr news agency reported on Sunday. In order to maintain his influence and presence in politics, Ahmadinejad has ordered the establishment of a Former President’s Office, of which he will be director.

He is also planning to launch several publications, Amir Mohebian, head of the Tehran-based Arya Strategic Studies Center, told the Etemaad newspaper. Ahmadinejad is seeking to “create some type of political party and manage… his followers,” said Mohebian.

Whether Ahmadinejad will be able to continue shaping Iran’s domestic and foreign policies is questionable. He is widely perceived as one of the most controversial and inflammatory presidents of his generation. He is the only Iranian president who managed to turn almost every state establishment against him.

Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who supported Ahmadinejad’s re-election, showed his frustration towards the end of the president’s term. Khamenei reappointed political figures whom Ahmadinejad had removed from office, and delegitimized those appointed and supported by the president.

Ahmadinejad had the lowest public approval ratings of any Iranian president. The Revolutionary Guards Corps, conservative clerics, and the majority of parliament – who all supported him at the beginning of his presidency – tried to impeach him during his second term.

Unemployment doubled under Ahmadinejad to 13 percent (unofficial statistics claim approximately 23 percent), and inflation tripled to 32 percent. Economic growth shrank to 0.8 percent, well short of the 8 percent target set by Iran’s fifth development plan from 2010 - 2015. The International Monetary Fund has projected that the economy will shrink further by 1.3 percent in 2013.

Ahmadinejad may be most remembered for his comments on homosexuality, Israel, the 9/11 attacks and the Holocaust.

• Western governments and Israel “launched the myth of the Holocaust,” he said. “They lied, they put on a show, and then they support the Jews. The pretext for establishing the Zionist regime is a lie… a lie which relies on an unreliable claim, a mythical claim, and the occupation of Palestine has nothing to do with the Holocaust.”

• In a speech to the United Nations in Sept. 2010, Ahmadinejad claimed that “some segments within the American government orchestrated” the 9/11 attacks “to reverse the declining American economy and its grip on the Middle East in order to save the Zionist regime… The majority of the American people, as well as most nations and politicians around the world, agree with this view.”

• “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in” the United States, he said in a speech at Columbia University in Sept. 2007.

At his farewell ceremony on Sunday, Ahmadinejad said his biggest presidential achievement was introducing discourse questioning the existence of the Holocaust. “That was a taboo topic that no one in the West allowed to be heard,” he said. “We put it forward at the global level. That broke the spine of the Western capitalistic regime.”

In one of his farewell speeches, he stated: “The name Ahmadinejad is now popular throughout the world… I had two missions: to build up Iran and to improve the world.”
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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