July 7, 2005


Iran's Reformists Link Defeat to a Split From the Poor (MICHAEL SLACKMAN, 7/07/05, NY Times)

Presidential election day 2005 turned Iran's political world upside down, when voters handed the role of reformer to a religious conservative who supports the clerical-control system: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, the appointed mayor of Tehran who ran as on outsider with a platform that called for cleaning up corruption and providing economic relief to the poor. Even some of the top leaders in the reform movement acknowledge that a man who once served in the Revolutionary Guard and the militant Basiji militias won the protest vote.

"People showed that they want reform and they don't like the ruling system," said the departing president's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is the leader of the Islamic Participation Front, Iran's largest reform party. "People are not happy with their way of life."

As Mr. Ahmadinejad prepares to build a government in collaboration with his conservative allies, the withered remnants of Iran's reform parties are struggling to plot a strategy for a return to political relevance. For days after the ballots were tallied, reform leaders offered few public comments or post-mortems on where they had gone wrong - or where they planned to go.

Now, some of the movement's leaders have begun to acknowledge that they lost, in part, because they became the party of the elite. They acknowledge that they focused so exclusively on changing the system, and more esoteric concepts of democracy, that they forgot about people's practical concerns, like feeding their families.

"We were the party of the intellectuals," Dr. Khatami said in a recent interview. "So we must change this to develop ideas for the poor and workers. We will still talk about democracy and human rights, but we should explain to people how it will make their lives better."

When you intentionally create a vaccuum you can't be surprised that something fills it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 7, 2005 6:09 AM
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