Guardian Politics in Iran: A Comparative Inquiry into the Dynamics of Regime Survival
The Iranian regime has repeatedly demonstrated a singular institutional resiliency that has been absent in other countries where "colored revolutions" have succeeded in overturning incumbents, such as Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, or where popular uprisings like the current Arab Spring have brought down despots or upended authoritarian political landscapes, including Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and even Syria. Moreover, it has accomplished this feat without a ruling political party, considered by most scholars to be the key to stable authoritarianism. Why has the Iranian political system proven so durable? Moreover, can the explanation for such durability advance a more deductive science of authoritarian rule?My dissertation places Iran within the context of guardian regimes--or hybrid regimes with ideological military, clerical or monarchical institutions steeped in the politics of the state, such as Turkey and Thailand--to explain the durability of unstable polities that should be theoretically prone to collapse. "Hybrid" regimes that combine competitive elections with nondemocratic forms of rule have proven to be highly volatile and their average longevity is significantly shorter than that of other regime types. My study demonstrates how guardian regimes that produce a strong system of checks-and-balances through ideologically buttressed veto players are more adept at surviving as a hybrid political system. Guardian checks-and-balances produce gradual, inclusive and re-distributive process of institutional transformation that attracts multiple stakeholders in the political order while simultaneously preventing the monopolization of power by any one group. To delineate these mechanisms at work, I undertake a comparative analysis of the policymaking processes of Iran in regards to the state's economic privatization drive. The findings are consequently compared to policymaking on economic privatization in Russia, which is moving towards greater authoritarianism, and Turkey, which is democratizing.
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