February 15, 2008

REPUBLICAN, NOT DEMOCRATIC:

Factions and friction (Kaveh L Afrasiabi, 2/16/08, Asia Times)

[A]s with the mass rallies this week celebrating the revolution, elections are primary instruments of political socialization, that is, a process by which the Iranian people acquire the values and opinions that motivate their "presence on the stage", to paraphrase the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution's founding father who left a legacy of ensuring that no specific political faction monopolizes political power, a legacy continued by his successor, Ayatollah Seyed Ali al-Khamenei.

This has not been an easy responsibility for the supreme leader, the final arbiter of policies who is, simultaneously, cast in the role of constant arbiter between and among (increasingly) fractious politicians representing diverse interests and orientations.

A factor of systemic stability, the leader has intervened in the torrent of accusations and counter-accusations following the mass disqualification of hundreds of candidates for the Majlis, urging a trust in the due process of law and the people who implement them. The key term utilized by government leaders and yet contested by the disqualified candidates as falling short in practice is "election ethics".

As usual, the initial sound and fury of objections to the disqualifications has given way to a politics of bargaining and mediation, with the competing factions making recourse to the office of leader, the Guardian Council, and even the Majlis itself, in their race to determine who is and who is not eligible to run. And this while utilizing the media to enhance their relative gain. The intervention of some key leading clergy, like Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, exhorting the government to reconsider the disqualifications, which include some representatives of the leader as well, has also been instrumental, reflecting the role of countervailing power centers in today's Iran.

As a result, hundreds of disqualified candidates have been reinstated already, thus bringing it closer to the spirit of "competitive" elections. Nonetheless, serious problems persist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2008 12:00 AM
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