In Iran, Not Even Prisoners Want to Hang Out with Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's grasp on popularity continues to slip, as the judiciary officials reject the Iranian president's request to visit the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. With eight months to go until the next presidential election and Ahmadinejad's inevitable exit from office, they just aren't sure it's the right time. "As we are faced with special circumstances and the country's priorities are the economy and people's living conditions, all authorities should focus on solving key issues ... visiting a prison is extraneous," chief prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie told the AFP. "More than seven years of his presidency have passed, and no request was made during that time." Mohseni Ejeie added that there was "a political dimension" to Ahmadinejad's trip -- evidently a prison he wanted to see -- and that "it is not appropriate."

Indeed, Iran is dealing with some serious economic issues. A couple of weeks ago, the sanctions imposed on the country for continuing to run its nuclear program seemed to kick in, and Iran's currency lost about 40 percent of its value in a matter of days. Since then, as the country's been struggling to keep currency changers from price gouging on exchange rates, Europe introduced another round of sanctions that cut off financial services and made it difficult for other business to operate there. 

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Ahmadinejad must feel a little bit embarrassed that he can't even visit his own prisoners, though. There have been a lot of signs lately that his popularity among the people has been waning including but not limited to anti-Ahmadinejad protests at home and abroad. Ahmadinejad's administration was also left with a little bit of egg on its face after the state-run media inadvertently reprinted an Onion article joking that Ahmadinejad was more popular than Obama among West Virginia voters. It even described the leader as a "a man who has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and has had numerous political prisoners executed." (Maybe that's why they don't him visiting any prisons...)

As AFP points out, though, Ahmadinejad has been in a long and very public battle with his judiciary, and they're probably using the prison visit as a chance to take a swipe at him. This, however, is not a good sign for a leader who's trying to show his people he has a good grip on power. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.