Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

▪ 2006

      The surprise winner of Iran's presidential elections in June 2005 was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who commanded the support of hard-line conservatives in the country. Despite having served as mayor of Tehran since 2003, Ahmadinejad was largely viewed as a political outsider when he announced his candidacy for president, and opinion polls put his support at about 7% prior to the first round of elections. Through a massive nationwide mobilization of supporters, however, Ahmadinejad managed to secure some 19.5% of the votes in that round, which propelled him into the second round of balloting, in which he handily defeated his moderate rival, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Ahmadinejad took office on August 3, when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei officially confirmed him as president.

      Ahmadinejad, the son of a blacksmith, was born on Oct. 28, 1956, in Garmsar, Iran. He grew up in Tehran, where in 1976 he entered the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) to study civil engineering. During the Iranian Revolution (1978–79), he was one of the student leaders who organized demonstrations. After the revolution, like many of his peers, he joined the Revolutionary Guards, a religious militia group formed by Ayatollah Khomeini. Parallel to his service with the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980–90 Iran-Iraq War, he continued his studies at IUST, eventually earning a Ph.D. in transportation engineering and planning. Following the war he served in various positions until 1993, when he was appointed governor of the newly established Ardabil province. After his term as governor ended in 1997, he returned to IUST as a lecturer.

      For the average Iranian, Ahmadinejad was an unknown figure until he became mayor of Tehran in 2003. Earlier he had helped establish a political party known as the Abadgaran (Developers of Islamic Iran), which promoted a populist agenda and sought to unite conservative factions in the country. The party gained momentum and captured the Tehran city council elections in February 2003. The city council chose Ahmadinejad to be mayor the following May. The Abadgaran also won a majority of seats in the 2004 parliamentary elections.

      As mayor of the capital city, Ahmadinejad was credited with solving traffic problems and keeping prices down. He presented himself as a man of the people—an image he continued to cultivate as president as he focused on such issues as poverty and social justice. His first months in office were characterized by internal challenges brought about by a sweeping changing of the guard in all key positions. On the foreign policy front, Ahmadinejad struck an immediate defiant chord, defending Iran's controversial nuclear program and discouraging talk of reestablishing formal ties with the U.S., which had been broken in 1979. He also prompted international condemnation with comments on Israel. In an October speech, he quoted Khomeini's declaration that Israel “must be eliminated from the pages of history” and added, “This sentence is very wise.” Two months later he called the Holocaust a “myth” and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe.

Editor

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▪ president of Iran
born Oct. 28, 1956, Garmsar, Iran
 
 Iranian political leader who served as president of Iran (2005– ).

      Ahmadinejad, the son of a blacksmith, grew up in Tehrān, where in 1976 he entered the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) to study civil engineering. During the Iranian Revolution (1978–79), he was one of the student leaders who organized demonstrations. After the revolution, like many of his peers, he joined the Revolutionary Guards, a religious militia group formed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (Khomeini, Ruhollah). Parallel to his service with the Revolutionary Guards in the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), he continued his studies at IUST, eventually earning a doctorate in transportation engineering and planning. Following the war he served in various positions until 1993, when he was appointed governor of the newly established Ardabīl province. After his term as governor ended in 1997, he returned to IUST as a lecturer.

      Ahmadinejad helped establish Abadgaran-e Iran-e Islami (Developers of an Islamic Iran), which promoted a populist agenda and sought to unite the country's conservative factions. The party won the city council elections in Tehrān in February 2003, and in May the council chose Ahmadinejad to serve as mayor. As mayor of Tehrān, Ahmadinejad was credited with solving traffic problems and keeping prices down.

      In 2005 Ahmadinejad announced his candidacy for the presidency of Iran. Despite his service as mayor of the capital city, he was largely considered a political outsider, and opinion polls showed little support for him prior to the first round of elections. Through a massive nationwide mobilization of supporters and with the support of hard-line conservatives, however, Ahmadinejad managed to secure one-fifth of the vote, which propelled him into the second round of balloting, in which he easily defeated his more moderate rival, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani (Rafsanjani, Hashemi). He was confirmed president on August 3 by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Khamenei, Ali).

      As president, Ahmadinejad presented himself as a populist, initially focusing on issues such as poverty and social justice. His first months in office were characterized by internal challenges brought about by a sweeping changing of the guard in all key positions. In contrast to his reform-oriented predecessor, Mohammad Khatami (Khatami, Mohammad), Ahmadinejad generally took a more conservative approach domestically, in 2005 prohibiting state television and radio stations from broadcasting music considered “indecent,” though under his leadership women symbolically were allowed for the first time since the revolution into major sporting events. Ahmadinejad was very active in foreign affairs, vigorously defending Iran's nuclear program against international criticism, particularly from the United States and the European Union. He also prompted international condemnation with comments calling for Israel to be “eliminated from the pages of history” (sometimes translated as calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map”) and for labeling the Holocaust a myth. His confrontational style was sometimes subject to criticism internally as well, and in December 2006 local elections, his allies lost ground to moderates.

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Universalium. 2010.

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