The Islamic Republic of Iran is a state based on revolutionary ideals of social justice, freedom and independence. Through her first two decades of its existence, the regime has succeeded in creating considerable social capital by lifting low-income people out of poverty and urbanizing large parts of the country’s rural areas. In fact, the urban population, which was below 55% in the mid-1980s, will reach 76% in 2021. There are many socioeconomic indicators, such as life expectancy, access to health services, literacy rates, and higher education, which have created a broad socioeconomic justification. Islamic Republic among the more conservative segment of the population. Also, the application of the subsidy system to empower the lower social classes was designed to increase the regime’s legitimacy among the target groups mentioned. One argument was the fact that it could rely on a powerful minority for its support.
But all indications point to the regime’s failure to sustain the social capital referred to. It is clear that expectations have changed as people have become more modern and educated. From an academic perspective, the factors that influence the level of social capital in government are transparency and accountability, quality of governance, rule of law, non-violence and political stability, and fighting corruption. These are all factors in the failure of entire regimes and successive governments in failing to heed changing public expectations.
Interestingly, President Ebrahim Raisi has identified this issue and announced that after the 2021 elections, increasing social capital will be a “mega-project” for the government. “Nothing is more important than serving people and maintaining peace and hope in society,” Raishi said. Experts agree that the Raisi government has so far failed to “serve the people.” But the problems started before his Raisi took office in 2021.
During the Hassan Rouhani administration (2013-2021), a number of studies were conducted to identify good governance as the most important factor in generating government legitimacy and social capital. Instead of promoting good practices, the reality of governance has deteriorated so badly that many described corruption and mismanagement as the greatest threat to national security. In addition, the entire public was disappointed with how the COVID-19 pandemic was mismanaged, especially the wrong policies regarding vaccine imports that caused more casualties. In this context, we need to understand that issues such as public health and inflation hit every family in the country, as opposed to foreign policy decisions and embezzlement cases. The applied formula of blaming the United States on a foreign conspiracy has also lost its usefulness. Society, especially the younger generation, expects accountability, and current governance structures fail to facilitate such accountability.
Even after the pandemic, real attention was never given to public demands. A reformist politician and former city councilor of Tehran Golamreza Ansari said the lack of interaction between the Raisi government and members of the elite created a gap between society’s realities and the government’s plans and policies. thinking about. One example is the government’s abolishment of the subsidized exchange rate, which led to an unprecedented increase in food prices. The decline in the rural population’s trust in the regime as a whole is one of the major processes that has undermined the regime’s social capital. During the first months of Raisi’s government, the excuse of new government officials was to blame the Rouhani government. But now, more than 16 months into his government, it is clear that this is a systemic problem that has led to the buildup of disillusionment and negative feelings about the regime as a whole.
Interestingly, the fact that social outrage was growing was no secret. In fact, in December 2021, former Education Minister and current Majlis Deputy Prime Minister Hamidre Zahaj Babai said the government was actively promoting his social capital and was “angry with the regime because of its economic and social problems.” “We should reconcile all citizens who stand up.”
But not only did the government fail to reconcile disappointed citizens, it developed a humiliating methodology for constructive criticism by arresting and harassing those who pointed out poor governance. commentator Abbas Abdi described the situation as follows: In fact, they believe that if you can’t see the problem, it doesn’t exist. In other words, they ignore their critics and opponents, believing that by ignoring or humiliating them the problem will be solved and the critics will disappear. not discredit them. ”
This approach by the authorities has not only limited the scope of professional debate on current issues such as women, youth, the environment, social injustice and workers’ rights, it has further disillusioned many segments of the population. rice field.
Clearly, the lack of attention to public demands and the waste of social capital have pushed society to a level where social unrest is the only way to convey grievances to the regime. Moreover, each cycle of social protests in Iran incurs enormous material and non-material costs, compounding the discontent.
At the very least, the current wave of protests in Iran is forcing voters in the regime to reexamine their levels of support and legitimacy in society, without the usual exaggeration or misrepresentation, and realize that they are nearing zero. is needed. Regaining legitimacy and some degree of trust requires bold reforms and actions that win the trust of various social classes. Comments from top leaders suggest that they view the softening of their aggressive approach as a sign of weakness, not recognizing that social demands will not go away.
There are many uncertainties about the future of the current wave of protests, but one thing is certain. Failure to address societal demands for improved governance structures will further disappoint already disenchanted segments of the population and set the stage for new forms. of protest and confrontation with a regime that has no social capital left to invest in the future.