Last Updated: Thu Oct 28, 2010 20:01 pm (KSA) 17:01 pm (GMT)

Ahmadinejad: The poorest president in the world

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

As a critical day draws near in Iran, which will see subsidies on basic commodities being lifted, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a campaign to portray himself as a poor man, a man without a penny in his pocket; Ahmadinejad claims to drive a 1977 Peugeot 504, and says that his original salary as a university lecturer did not exceed $250 per month. [According to this campaign] Ahmadinejad only owns a modest house in a poor neighbourhood in southern Tehran, a house where he continued to reside until he became president. Ahmadinejad claims to have resided in this modest home even after he became Mayor of Tehran, refusing to move into the palace that is the official residence for this post.

All that has been said about his modest lifestyle and poverty may be entirely true, however this must also be subject to scepticism considering the position that he currently holds. However Ahmadinejad cannot conceal aspects of his lifestyle under the ragged coat that he is keen to wear in Iran when he is seen dressed in elegant suits during his most recent visit to New York.

Ahmadinejad is not the only leader to try this; numerous leaders have been eager to portray themselves to the populace as being poor and common people. However this quickly becomes nothing more than propaganda, as was the case with Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Mao pursued many who he deemed to be members of the bourgeois, confiscating their property at the same time that he himself was residing in a number of luxurious palaces. This was also the case with leaders in the Kremlin during the Communist Era, who led a prosperous life enjoying special privileges. All revolutionaries are keen to appear to the public as being underprivileged. For example, prominent leaders in Hamas previously distributed pictures of themselves, living in modest homes. However, following this, they were responsible for the destruction of half of Gaza, contributing to further poverty and fostering equality [amongst its people], albeit in terms of destitution and suffering.

The underprivileged leader who is of the common people is a form of propaganda that may convince the public for a while, and may help in bringing this leader who lives in the palace closer to the populate for a time, however this is a façade that does not last for very long and becomes irrelevant when he fails to manage the state's affairs. This is a situation that Ahmadinejad finds himself facing today. Ahmadinejad will not benefit from portraying himself as a poor man who has an old Peugeot in his presidential garage. In the next few weeks, his government will lift subsidies on meat, vegetables, fuel, diesel and other basic commodities; people will suffer, and the poor will become even poorer. Will the story of the poor president convince them to tighten their belts? I doubt it.

Many talk about the excessive wealth of their leaders, but they would talk about this even more if their leaders were impoverishing them. I believe that Ahmadinejad will face difficult days to come, regardless of his propaganda machine promoting the story of the poorest president in the world, and in fact he will need his suppressive forces and Revolutionary Guards. The people will pay no attention to this story when they are no longer able to feed their children.

US President Barack Obama was born into a middle-class family that was not rich at all. Once he entered the White House, he immediately signed contracts to write his biography in two volumes for $10 million.

Ahmadinejad could be both a great and wealthy leader at the same time, if he could resolve the crisis in Iran whose people are living in hardship due to the policies adopted by Iran's mullahs, who are eager to sit in front of television cameras and boast of their poverty. Iran is in fact wealthier than the all of the Gulf States, yet Iranians look to these states, envious of their wealth, and wonder how the people of their country, which is rich in oil, gas, and agriculture, live upon subsidies and cheap propaganda.

*Published in the London-based ASHARQ ALAWSAT on Oct. 28, 2010.

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