June 17, 2005


Reformists Are Optimistic as Iranians Vote for President: Polls show a former leader still favored, but one candidate's camp claims a surge of support. Large field is likely to lead to a runoff. (Nahid Siamdoust and John Daniszewski, June 17, 2005, LA Times)

With seven candidates in the race, it seemed likely that Iran would be forced to hold a runoff for the first time since the 1979 revolution. A second round will be held if no candidate wins 50%.

Hours before the balloting began at 7 a.m., President Bush sharply criticized the election, saying it fell short of democracy because candidates needed to be cleared by the Council of Guardians to get on the ballot.

"Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy," Bush said in a statement. "The June 17th presidential elections are sadly consistent with this oppressive record."

Initially the Guardian Council, an unelected panel answerable only to the country's unelected supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had ruled that no reformers could run. But the ayatollah intervened, ordering the council to reverse its decision and put Moin and a less-known reformer on the ballot.

Samak Baqeri, an election supervisor at a school in northern Tehran, predicted this morning that Bush's comments would increase voter turnout.

But Dr. Mohsen Janati, the head of the school who also was serving as an election supervisor there, said that young people were yearning for more democracy. He said that was the main issue in the election, but that young people were discouraged. He predicted only half of them would vote.

Compared with those in other Mideast countries, an Iranian election is a brash and Western-style affair, with rallies, heavy advertising and imaginative campaign gimmicks. The hard-line clerics have a history of recognizing the democratic results even when they are unpalatable to them, such as the surprise victory of current President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, in 1997. He was reelected in 2001.

When given the choice in recent years, voters have almost always sought reform and liberalization.

The key is just to get Moin into the runoff and then crank up turnout once folks see they can elect a real reformer. For whatever reason, Khamenei has made a reformist victory a real possibility.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 17, 2005 8:16 AM

That's exactly what they said about Khatami.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 10:02 AM

Who was a reformist, though ultimately not entirely successful. For that the power of the Guardian Council will have to be curtailed.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 10:09 AM

Which answers your question. Khatamei, who's not the brightest bulb on the sign, knows that it doesn't make much difference who the president is, and giving the voters a reformer to vote for might pacify them for a while.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 10:50 AM

It's made a tremendous difference. Iran today is a much different place than it was under Khoimeini and his immediate successors and is becoming more different.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 10:59 AM

The reform movement has accomplished nothing. It's politicians are impotent, it's leaders are in prison or in exile, it's newspapers have been shut down and the mullahs are still in charge.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 11:30 AM

The mullahs have been reduced to nothing but a veto power--they can hold up progress to a degree, but even that's limited.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 11:47 AM

And beat up reformers in the streets, jail newspaper writers and close down the newspapers.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 17, 2005 4:50 PM

Rather ineffectually. NPR just had a big story on about how when you approach even the poorest folk in South Teheran they're talking about what the Iranian bloggers are saying about the election.

Posted by: oj at June 17, 2005 5:39 PM