May 24, 2005


Theocracy meets democracy in Iran (Pepe Escobar, 5/25/05, Asia Times)

The Guardians Council, composed of six ayatollahs and six lawyers, was conceived by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - leader of the Islamic revolution - to supposedly represent the best interests of Iranian public opinion and the constitution. This past weekend the council vetoed all but one reformist candidate, as well as 89 women candidates. The official reason: "Non-respect of Islamic values." The six candidates approved included the favorite, Rafsanjani, a centrist; mild reformer Mehdi Karrubi, a former parliamentary spokesman; and four conservatives (a former chief of police, a former commander of the Guardians of the Revolution, the mayor of Tehran and a former head of the national radio and TV network).

The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, whose main candidate was vetoed, immediately threatened to boycott the election. The Guardians Council did the same thing in early 2004, disqualifying more than 2,000 candidates from legislative elections. A widespread election boycott led to conservative control of the majlis (parliament). Voting participation in the February 2004 elections was only 50.57% - the lowest in the country's history.

This week, though, came a bomb - or the system trying to save itself. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a decree to Guardians Council leader Ayatollah Ahmad Janati asking him to review the decision to disqualify popular reformist Mostafa Moin, a former higher education minister, and Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh. Moin is in the center of the furor. He is the leading candidate of the reformists, running for the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the largest pro-reform political party, led by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from serving a third term. The Supreme Leader and the conservative ayatollahs around him sensed they might be defeated by a powerful weapon: absenteeism. Americans may consider a president chosen by roughly half the electorate as a legitimate one. Not the Iranians.

It must be the goal of Iran to reach the point America and Britain have, where the two main parties differ so little over the fundamental questions of how to organize the political sphere that one need not be bothered voting.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 24, 2005 12:00 AM
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