GP Insights # 191, 23 November 2019
Protests erupted in Iran after the government reintroduced a petrol rationing scheme and hiked gas prices in its bid to cut energy subsidies and redistribute the same in other sectors. The national oil distribution body announced petrol rationing would be done through the use of smart cards.
Protesters have taken to streets, affecting basic services in more than 100 cities. This move has affected cab drivers, transport owners, and energy reliant marketeers; students from universities have staged protests calling the regime’s decision unacceptable. While, the police have used live ammunition to stave off protestors leaving hundreds injured and rest arrested, the government has blocked internet services.
What is the background?
The government announced a similar fuel rationing scheme in 2007, enraging motorists and causing widespread protests. The 2007 decision was to keep up with sanctions and dispense subsidies towards human developmental sectors.
Iran has witnessed a series of protests. The 2018 protests revolved around economic concerns as compared to the present situation which includes issues such as corruption, anti-regime sentiments and a larger ambit of economics. While the 2019 protests may have taken cues from the earlier ones, there has been a substantial increase in the number of casualties and arrests.
The government’s inability to recalibrate initially is at human costs. Khomeini’s support for the scheme has attracted naysayers and a large audience for regime change. The Supreme leader warned the protesters would be hanged if they led movement. Officials through state-sponsored media have blamed the US and external players.
What does it mean?
First, the resentment against Iran’s domestic energy policy has ballooned into an anti-regime movement. Rising frustration of masses highlights the failing political confidence upon Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Khomeini’s regime no longer enjoys the 1979 rapport, highlighting the decay of an institution which can lead one to question the 40-year-old revolution fundamentally.
Second, corruption, coupled with poor living standards, has posed direct challenges to the existing government. This indicates the flaws with the existing leadership and the public’s need for effective governance.
Third, the signing of the nuclear deal yielded Iran developmental autonomy and relief, but the American withdrawal has managed to stir a portion of protests. The IMF projected a 9 per cent fall in Iran’s economy for 2019, signalling a slow decline. Amidst this, Trump’s policies combined with sanctions has deemed the nation’s economic ascent unprofitable.
Fourth, the large protests bring to fore efforts by victims and the rise of awakened citizenry despite a plagued regime. International criticism has been effective in bringing to fore the events and pressuring Iran to take corrective measures.