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Municipal Elections From Iran

By jjayson in News
Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 11:38:07 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

This Friday, February 28th, Iranian citizens went to the polling booths for municipal elections for the second time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Nationwide there were 218,000 candidates in 905 cities and 34,205 villages. The candicates were competing for the ballots of the 41.2 million 15-and-over eligible voters to take one of 112,375 seats. In Tehran alone there are 1,351 people campaigning for just 15 city council seats with 4 million voters.

Many see this election as a referendum of President Khatami's liberal reform agenda, and public support of the reform movement he leads will be gauged by it. However, major party leaders are opting to stay out of these elections, and instead unknowns have taken over the ballots.

Many are disillusioned at President Khatami's inability to push though his social and economic policies. In 1999 the reformists swept local elections, showing tremendous support for Khatami. However, with the Guardian Council and the conservatives that hold all other key positions in government standing strong, the reform policy has ground to a halt.

Another reason for public frustration is the example set by the first Tehran city council. It bickered within itself and with city hall until the council was dissolved by the Interior Ministry. "The activities of certain municipal councils have created problems for their towns. It's true that in some places the municipal councils have worked well," the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei commented. "But in others certain political groups, tendencies and factions have engaged in such machinations that people no longer have confidence in them." Regardless, President Khatami called the first councils a "successful experience despite some problems," saying that "some of the deficiencies and shortcomings are related to the impotency of regulations and some others to the novicehood (in this respect) and I hope that we will see these problems be tackled in the second councils. The government must set the scene for better and freer operation of the councils it is necessary to make the councils more efficient and dynamic."

The elections were also be a test to the radical dissident party, the Iran Freedom Movement (IFM). The IFM was banned in a 2000 crackdown when the conservative judiciary put many of its members on trial, and 8 of 15 were found guilty of trying to buck Islamic control. They see this vote as a way to show that the public doesn't agree with the charges and convictions that have been passed down. Even though the courts have shut down many of the pro-reform newspapers, the remaining ones have given space to IFM candidates. The IFM leadership calls these municipal elections the fairest because the candidates were not checked by the Guardian Council which rules out all candidates that they believe do not represent Islamic ideals.

This year dissidents were allowed on the ballot because reformers are now in control of the parliamentary committee which controls who goes on those ballots and the Interior Ministry which administers the elections. However, Ayatollah Khamenei has voiced concerns that the qualifications of many candidates were not checked before being allowed to run. He has promised to nullify the election of anybody found to go against regulations. Many radicals read this as a veiled threat to overturn elections of anybody not deemed "Muslim enough."

The candidate demographics are interesting. Among all the would-bes there are only 1,200 clerics, but female candidates are on a 20 percent rise from four years ago, totaling 6,000. Many of the conservatives feel that they lack any support base and have entered the race in stealth, signing on as independents and electing to stay off of party lists. "Hard-liners refused to run because they know they have no popular base and are doomed to fail. They can't tolerate more public humiliation at the polls," explains Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the IFM. Many of the conservatives are also calling for people to boycott the elections, saying that it gives tacit support to the reformist ideas. Assadollah Badamshian, a leader of the conservative Islamic Coalition Association, admonishes "Real believers will not take part in the vote."

This year's campaign has been a relatively uneventful and quiet, without the previous election's religios or revolutionary rhetoric. It has featured many interesting or offbeat candidates, though.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of President Khatami, leads the main reform group, the Islamic Iran Participation Front. He is campaigning under the slogans "Iran for the Iranians" and "City Councils Form the Basis of Democracy."

A moderate group, The Servants of Construction, has plastered pictures of former 1989 to 1999 Tehran Mayor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, across the city. His modernization projects were well-liked when he was in office, but in January 2002 he was sentenced to several years of jail time on corruption charges for causing drastic increases in house prices in a plot to keep control of housing policies. Later, after serving only five months of his sentence, he was pardoned by Ayatollah Khamenei. The flyers read, "With us, Karbaschi will return," since in Iran the local city councils appoint a mayor.

A Tehran doctor campaigning for a council seat tried to catch the eyes of people in another way, opting for posters showing him in a tie, a symbol of Western life that was banned soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution. His slogan was "Voters, I abandoned the comforts of the West to take care of your comforts." Another Tehrani candidate rode around the city on his motorbike with a sign attached to his back, "I am your servant."

Jomhuri-Eslami Daily, a reformist paper has reported that a candidate paid women to walk about affluent areas of Mashad in northeast Iran wearing his campaign posters as clothing and the required Islamic headscarf. Meanwhile in the same city, near a school, a candidate was handing out calendars of a popular Persian singer from the days of the Shah. The calendars were targeted at the young teenagers that are eligible to vote.

The pro-reform journalist Mohsen Sazengara, who was recently released from his February 18th arrest for questioning the cleric leadership and writing scathing public letters to the Ayatollah Khamenei, is also on the ballot in Tehran. Many of the reformers plan to elect Sazengara if they take control of the council.

The wife of Hashem Aghajari, the academic who was first sentenced to death and later had his conviction repealed after criticizing the hierarchy of the Guardian Council, is running too.

Even the 200-pound category world champion wrestler Rassul Kadem and singer Hossein Zaman have joined into the action.

Despite all the problems this election brings to surface, additional polling boxes were brought into Tehran because of a high expected turnout. In 1999 voter turnout was 64.41 percent across the country. Many predict that this year only 60 percent of those eligible will vote. President Khatami has a different take on public apathy, "Iranians are not disappointed. They are perhaps critical and believe many of their demands have not been met, but I think more than 50 percent will vote because people believe in their country and in the regime." However, he appears to be out of touch. "Why should I vote? What was the result of my previous votes? I want to show that I am dissatisfied with the whole system by not voting," said Ali, a 25-year-old university student.

The Aftermath

Over the weekend partial results started to roll in, culminating in official announcements made on Monday. To the shock of everybody, the reformists were handed a crushing defeat as conservative hard-liners virtually swept the elections. In the first conservative victory at the polls since President Khatami's landslide 1997 victory, they took 14 of the 15 Tehran city council seats, and the best the reformers could muster was winning three standby seats in Tehran that would take effect if any of the 15 winners do not claim their position. Similar results were reported across the rest of the country.

In 1999 all reformist parties presented a single unified list of candidates, however this year, in another sign of a fractured group, 18 parties put up three separate lists of candidates. "We accept that we have lost the elections and we consider it our duty to take lessons from this defeat. This defeat has made our path longer and more difficult," said Ali Shakourirad, a senior member of the Participation Front.

"We should respect the people's vote, because they are present when a war takes place, they are present when their country is subjected to economic sanctions, so they are master of the community," President Khatami said, seemingly accepting the defeat in stride. "The people become disappointed with the government system when they see the system takes its own way separate from what the people demand and is unable to handle the state of affairs properly."

Allowing this reversal to happen was staggeringly low voter turnout. Just 39 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls and as few as 562,000 voters in Tehran, just 12 percent. The referendum on Khatami's agenda schedule clearly failed.

Parvis Esmaeili, the Managing Directory for the Tehran Times, didn't see the low turnout or election results as a defeat of reform, though. "Radicalism and sloganeering were defeated in the recent elections and the main message of the municipal elections were moderation and pragmatism," he said. "The defeat of those who claim to be reformists is not the defeat of reformism, we need reform, but genuine reform."

With parliamentary elections next year, President Khatami and the rest of the reformists have much to prove if they do not want to see yet another branch of government over-run by conservatives.


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Municipal Elections From Iran | 69 comments (52 topical, 17 editorial, 1 hidden)
Democracies in the gulf region (4.00 / 8) (#1)
by otmar on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 03:22:28 PM EST

Some people say that Iran is the most democratic country in the whole gulf reagion. As you've obviously researched the subject, what's your take on that?

And how does that square with the "axis of evil" status vs. Bush's recent "let's bring democracy to the middle east" statement?

Just curious,


Iran shouldn't have been in axis of evil (4.42 / 14) (#7)
by Stephen Turner on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 03:49:06 PM EST

Lots of people, at least in Europe, were very angry when Bush included Iran in his "axis of evil". With a political battle going on there between conservatives and reformers, he only strengthened the conservative position. It was extremely ill-considered and counter-productive.

[ Parent ]
And you think that wasn't the point? (3.66 / 3) (#8)
by DominantParadigm on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 03:51:43 PM EST

Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

[ Parent ]
Maturity (none / 0) (#17)
by spakka on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 05:15:47 PM EST

Likewise, people should have to demonstrate maturity for closing italic tags before they use them.

[ Parent ]
Say what? (none / 0) (#18)
by DominantParadigm on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 05:42:33 PM EST

Caller:So you're advocating bombing innocent children? Howard Stern:Yes, of course!

[ Parent ]
your sig (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by CanSpice on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 08:36:24 PM EST

Fix your sig. Close the italics. It's throwing off the line following it.

[ Parent ]
In Bush's defence (4.66 / 9) (#13)
by Anatta on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 04:48:41 PM EST

He has been quite clear that his problem is with the hardline conservatives, not with the people of Iran.

2001 SOTU speech (the "Axis of Evil" speech):

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.
2002 SOTU speech:
Different threats require different strategies. In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction, and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny -- and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom.
There are many that argue that his words have emboldened the opposition to the Ayatollahs, and have done a great deal of good. Of course, many of those same people believe that war in Iraq will do a lot more good again, but that's neither here or there.

My Music
[ Parent ]

Errr, 2002 and 2003 SOTU Addresses (n/t) (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Anatta on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 04:50:06 PM EST

My Music
[ Parent ]
Well in Bush's further defense who cares? (2.80 / 10) (#28)
by Mr Hogan on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 10:29:41 PM EST

Well I think he should agressively pursue an intern - bin Laden never got a blowjob either - and maybe worry about Herr Ridge and the wannabe Taliban Ashcroft instead of Iran's conservatives who for all their faults did rescue the people from the grip of the Shah - remember him he established many freedoms - and allow them to go as far as they've come, evolve in the right direction absent harmful foreign meddling. So anyway, I think its nice Bush can read speeches and drive an axle of evil but it's time for Americans to shut their yapping - they have become tiresome fucking retards, no one discusses the weather anymore, it's always evil this evil that.

Life is food and rape, then tilt.
[ Parent ]

Exactly! (2.40 / 5) (#38)
by bjlhct on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:40:04 AM EST

Get a blowjob, or the terrorists win!

[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
Sigged! -nt- (none / 0) (#39)
by sticky on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:59:17 AM EST

Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
However... (4.75 / 4) (#34)
by jjayson on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 11:53:44 PM EST

what he said in the details is far removed from how people  are using the statement, including those trying to drum up anti-American sentiment in other countries.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
Yeah... (none / 0) (#49)
by SPYvSPY on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 10:29:58 AM EST

...including people like Mr. Turner.

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

There shouldn't have been an axis of evil .. (3.85 / 7) (#41)
by gbd on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 01:41:49 AM EST

.. to begin with.

That whole three-word fiasco is turning out to be one of the more serious foreign policy fuck-ups in recent history.

Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

Three cheers for Dubya! (4.00 / 5) (#51)
by emh0 on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:26:30 PM EST

George Bush has done untold damage with his moronic and ill thought-out "Axis of Evil" statement. Not to mention his subsequent warmongering in the region. Before that speech North Korea was progressing well in talks with SK, Iraq hadn't threatened anybody in over a decade, and Iran's democracy movement, although slow, was progressing steadily. Now he's on the brink of war with Iraq, North Korea is threatening nuclear war and Iran's democracy movement has been set back decades.

America's actions have caused massive anti-American feeling in the Middle East (and the rest of the world, for that matter), and has therefore led to people falling back on the Islamic hard-liners who they see as more anti-American. This, of course, will lead to more support for Islamic terrorism against the US, so in fact everybody, including the US, loses in the end. As far as Pakistan goes, Musharraf has been very stern in his opposition to India, he has, however, bent over backwards for the US. So take your pick as to which of these is likely to be the cause of his drop in support.

And to add to this he has the audacity to accuse other countries, such as France, of threatening world stability and security! Three cheers for Dubya!

He accuses them of appeasing a dictator. The appeasers here are Tony Blair, Jose Maria Anzar and Silvio Burlesconi. Being as the people of every country in the world apart from the US and Israel overwhelmingly oppose the upcoming war against Iraq, these few governments who would appease GWB against the wishes of their own people are not likely to last long. I only hope that the people of Europe get their act together and progress with the EU, since that is the only 'country' that stands a chance of standing up to the US in the future.

[ Parent ]
Wouldn't say it's the most democratic (4.28 / 7) (#9)
by strlen on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 04:02:37 PM EST

Bahrain allows for all sorts of religions and ethnicties (including even jews, who aren't even allowed to enter most other gulf countries) to sit in the parliament, and allows women to vote, although political parties are banned. Kuwait, is set to allow women to vote sometime in 2003 by sheikh's decree, if it's approved by parliament. It's not however the most backwards state (that title belong to Saudi Arabia) and by far not the least legitimate (that title can be contested by Iraq and Saudi Arabia).

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Should be mentioned... (4.85 / 7) (#44)
by Gromit on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 03:12:16 AM EST

...that this constitutional monarchy in Bahrain is relatively new, introduced in February 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa as one of many reforms he is bringing to the country. Prior to his ascension to the throne, under His Highness Sheikh Sulman bin Isa Al-Khalifa, it was a standard emirate with no elections for government posts, etc. More here.

"The noble art of losing face will one day save the human race." - Hans Blix

[ Parent ]
Yes (4.50 / 4) (#60)
by strlen on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 04:04:32 PM EST

Only recently introduced. However, women were still allowed to hold offices, as were other religious groups prior to the establishiment of national assembly, and were acttively appointed to these posts by the Skeih. I believe it's the only arab country, period (and Iran isn't an arab country, the name Iran stands for Aryan, and their language is Indo European) where there's you'll find jews in the legislative body (there's actually jews in iranian legislature, but a) Iran isn't an arab country, and b) they're nothing but puppets for the ayatolah, although again, this is better than a situation like syria where they're specifically prohibited from voting).

I personally think that the richer and more secular emirates, such as UAE's Dubai (not the rest of UAE though) and Kuwait, have a fairly strong chance for a stable western-style democracy.

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]

no parties allowed... (none / 0) (#69)
by israfil on Mon Mar 10, 2003 at 05:59:31 AM EST

Actually, I find this to be an amazingly good thing.  Partizan polarization and "interest politics" have dramatically leeched the franchise of the citizen in modern western democracies.  The concepts of "his majesty's loyal opposition" and partisan checks and balances are an old solution to an old political reality.  

The governments of Nunuvut and the Northwest Territories in Canada are interesting models of non-partisan government.  

If you ever watch question period in Canada, you'll see what I mean about needless contention in government based on party lines.  The US is even worse, because they reduce political discourse from complex conversation to "you're either with us or with them"-style politics. <sigh>

(Not suggesting it's better in the middle east, just that banning parties is the first reform I'd implement in north america, given the chance.)

i. - this sig provided by /dev/arandom and an infinite number of monkeys with keyboards.
[ Parent ]

Most democratic? (4.57 / 7) (#33)
by jjayson on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 11:50:21 PM EST

I don't know if I would say that. I wouldn't call ti very politically advanced, either. When big reforms come up, the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog group of clerics, has started to really hinder reforms. They have final say on all laws passed. Conservative control the other important bodies, too. Hardliners are in chard of the judiciary and the police force and their presence is well felt. A story was reported this weekend about a group of people being arrested for setting up dates over the internet. The story went on to conclude about how the police regular inspect co-ed parties to enforce the morality codes.

Pariamentary elections next year will be key. Besides the presidency, that is the only source of reformist power left. Another conservative victory could set reforms back another decade.

Bush's "axis of evil" comment has been a foreign policy blunder. It has allowed conservatives to use it as a platform to speak on. It also shows that the current reforms haven't been fast enough to get in good with the West. This only serves to hilight the failures of those currently in power.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

Re: Most democratic? (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by otmar on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 04:03:32 AM EST

I don't know if I would say that. I wouldn't call it very politically advanced, either.
Yes, in absolute terms the Iranian democracry is certainly not a positiv example, especially if you compare it to western standards of democracry.

My question was different: How does it rate in relation to the rest of the gulf region?

It's certainly better than the joke of Iraq's recent election, and definitely better than the hard-core monarchy of Saudi Arabia. Probably better than Syria as well. I know that Kuwait has some features of a constitutional monarchy with a parliament, but falls short of western standards as well (women's voting rights, very shallow representation of the population, and no real competencies). Bahrain was mentioned by strlen as a positive example.

I know little of the political structure of e.g. Jemen, UAE, Qartar, Oman.

Can you (or somebody else) post some more information on the state of democracy in the region?


[ Parent ]

All that blood sweat toil and tears. (1.90 / 11) (#3)
by Mr Hogan on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 03:26:33 PM EST

Then the bombs come make everyone American.

Life is food and rape, then tilt.

Don't worry yourself (none / 0) (#22)
by salsaman on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 06:50:52 PM EST

I'm sure it's all for the best.

[ Parent ]

What a measured, informative, reasonable statement (4.66 / 3) (#40)
by Demiurge on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 01:15:40 AM EST

Just what I've come to expect from Mr.Hogan!

[ Parent ]
You're every comment describes itself. (2.00 / 2) (#50)
by Mr Hogan on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:16:22 PM EST

thelizardman or turmeric or whatever you are - a shadowy figure preys on the gestalt or is it gesundheit? - don't know the make-pretend German word for trollism. So anyway keep up the good work.

Life is food and rape, then tilt.
[ Parent ]

Try to use correct grammar in your rants (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by RyoCokey on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 01:12:33 PM EST

"Your every comment describes yourself." Ad hominem attacks are one thing, but at least try to use correct grammar and spelling in your inane little retorts.

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
Well written, informative (2.25 / 5) (#29)
by christonabike on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 10:40:46 PM EST

and I have jackshit to say. This might be the most easily voted up and least commented on story ever.

Least commented story (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by jjayson on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 11:25:59 PM EST

I think I hold that record for stories in the last couple years with my last piece, Yao Now Red Cow. It only had 37 topical comments, and it was even on the front page. If you look at my story history, I even have tech stories that have virtually not comments on topic. I seem to have the uncanny ability to get stories voted up that nobody cares about.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
I care about it (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by DodgyGeezer on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 09:31:17 AM EST

It was a good story.  I just have nothing to say to add to the discussion.  I can't really discuss things that I know little about.

[ Parent ]
Not true (none / 0) (#58)
by rusty on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:49:35 PM EST

The lack of comments is directly related to the completeness of your stories. Stories that offer a lot of interesting information (and no flamebait) tend to have fewer comments, because there's simply less to argue about. This is a good thing. The less argument there is, the more people actually learned something from the story. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
and k5 devolves into a news site (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by LilDebbie on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 06:38:46 PM EST

I thought this was supposed to be a discussion oriented site. Lack of discussion, while implying the story was complete and informative, is still not good for the concept at large. On a side note, I love trying to explain the nature of something to the person who created it.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Both are good (none / 0) (#64)
by rusty on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 07:24:07 PM EST

Too much of one or the other gets boring. I like a good mix. Some things are about discussion, some things are about news. There's a lot to be gained by having a blend.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Good article; bad news (4.00 / 16) (#30)
by Spork on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 10:48:17 PM EST

Ugh, I wish that election had gone better for the more moderate reformists. However, I honestly didn't expect better. In the same way that fear of external attack plays into the hands of American reactionaries, the shortsited threats of those American reactionaries basically makes it impossible for Iranian reformists to argue that the West is worth dealing with. It is much easier to argue that Westerners are evil crusaders, and that the Iranian people must turn to the clerics for direction, comfort and dignity.

A very similar thing happened in the last Pak election, where everybody was shocked at the explosion of radical Islamicist parties. This is a very tangible sign of how the present US foreign policy is making the world more dangerous for everyone, including Americans. Until there is a profound deescalation of militaristic propaganda from Washington (and a state of Palestine on the maps), the radical Islamicists will gain more and more power in moredate Muslim countries like Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia. This is a bad result for everyone, especially for the people who have to live under these nuts--but also for people on thier hit list.

There really is only one leader in the Middle East who is 100% committed to a secular government, and who opposes militant Muslim fundamentalism: Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, he has some other problems and isn't exactly a model leader. I really thought that Iran might become secularized and modernized under Khatami. It's sad to see the USA not even giving him a chance. Maybe this is a part of the plan, though. If Islamicists stage a coup and run him out of power, the USA will have a great excuse to drop more bombs.

Pakistan (4.40 / 5) (#35)
by jjayson on Mon Mar 03, 2003 at 11:58:15 PM EST

I think you can account the rise of the radical Islamic parties more to the climate in India and parties such as the BJP than to the US. They are far closer and poser a much more immediate danger. The populace is more worried about Kashmir and their Indian border to worry about distant quasi-threats like Bush foreign policy.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
yeah, that sounds right (none / 0) (#46)
by Spork on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 08:16:40 AM EST

I bet you're right about that, but I think it would be hard to deny that bending over for Bush endears Musharraf to pious people in Pakistan. Still, I take your point.

[ Parent ]
yes the us... (3.33 / 6) (#37)
by circletimessquare on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:18:13 AM EST

yes the us controls the whole world like a puppet.

it is the source of all evil in the world, and you can blame everything that goes wrong on it.

oh, and by the way, the us never does any good in the world either.

do i have the propganda party line correct now?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

He already blew his chance (5.00 / 3) (#52)
by RyoCokey on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 01:09:57 PM EST

I really thought that Iran might become secularized and modernized under Khatami. It's sad to see the USA not even giving him a chance.

In all fairness, though, it wasn't much of a chance. The clerics hold all the real power, and if they don't want reform, it's not going to happen. Khatami was hailed as a reformer back when he was elected, and did try some reforms, which were promptly denied. After that, he drifted closer to the theocracy and lost quite a bit of the reformist support that got him there.

The US had nothing to do with his failure, and in fact relations between the two countries warmed during his tenure, seeing a resumption of sports events between the two countries (Notably wrestling.)

Pacifism in this poor world in which we live -- this lost world -- means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.
-- Francis Schaeffer,
[ Parent ]
No more wrestling (5.00 / 3) (#57)
by jjayson on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:40:16 PM EST

The World Championships are set to be help in Boise, Idaho this year. However, because of the new US policy to fingerprint all nations suspected of harboring terrorists, Iran has refused to send its wrestlers. It is calling the policy to fingerprint its international atheletes "humilliating."

In a tit-for-tat turn of events, Iran has now required all American journalists to be fingerprinted upon entering the country.

This is quite a shame, too, considering that the current 200-pound champion is Iranian (and the only reformer to win a Tehrani city coucil seat).
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

yeah (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by radish on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 03:18:40 PM EST

I don't often agree with you, but I reckon you're right about this.  the clerics made sure everybody knew when Khatami first got in that he wasn't going to be allowed to upset the apple cart, and the depressingly low turnout now suggests that plain old disillusionment was the issue, rather than any backlash against inflammatory US rhetoric.  especially in an election where the polite thing to do would be for everybody to get out and vote for their third cousin twice removed even if they didn't really care.

the Mullahs' power base is entirely dependent on religious authority and anti-Americanism, and I suspect that all but the most devout Iranians would love to see final authority shifted to a parliament and PM as long as it didn't mean outright cultural assimilation or economic rape.  the problem is that that would effectively require a new constitution, which the Mullahs will fight tooth and nail.

maybe the US could have renormalized relations, pushed hard for lots of trade and cultural contamination, and had the clerics more or less discredited within a decade or two (keep in mind that Iran, like the rest of the region, has LOTS of impressionable young people) but I can see how the last few administrations wouldn't have considered that a realistic strategy.  plus you could easily argue that the Mullahs did more than the Clintonites to obstruct renormalization.

[ Parent ]

Iran (4.64 / 14) (#36)
by EricsTrip on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:17:24 AM EST

Iran is truly a unique country in the Middle East. The reason is the current situation - while Iran was under the US-backed Shah, it looked like every other Middle Eastern dictatorship. The difference was the massive popular opposition to the regime that was exploited by the Shi'ite ulama actively involving themselves in the political opposition to the Shah. Not that they weren't politically active before, but the clerics changed from their traditional role of directing the private life of Muslims to the government of the country. When Khomeini was in exile, many people listened to and agreed with his arguments against the current regime, but they didn't think he would play such a major role in the post-Shah republic. In fact, many clerics like Shariatmadari and Taleqani regarded Khomeini's ideas of a supreme Ayatollah ruling the country as an unauthorized innovation on traditional Shi'i doctrine, since the role of the mullahs lies with the people, not in government.

Thus, there was always opposition from secular anti-Shah intellectuals, students, and merchants, who felt that the autocratic measures of Khomeini were just a replacement of the Shah's regime. This opposition could not be ignored, and that is why Iran has 3 branches of government, an elected national assembly, and a constitution. In 1994, women comprised 30% of government employees and 40% of university students. Of course, the constitution also states that a Council of Guardians ( 12 clerics ruled by a faqih, the jurist ) have veto power over anything the assembly passes. As well, dissent against the government or the current political structure is not tolerated, and there is persecution of minorities, especially the Baha'i. Execution and harassment of opponents like university professors and even other Shi'i clerics, is common.

However, this quote from Islam and Democracy may sum up the country:

In the Persian Gulf region, some have observed, many people believe that the Iranian experience demonstrates the compatibility of representative government with chrished traditional values. Ironically, the Western pre-occupation with the hijab tends to ignore the fact that Iranian society generally is more open and more liberal than its counterparts across the Gulf... Disenfranchised Arabs see in the Islamic government of Iran what appears to be a good example of democracy within an Islamic context

Middle Eastern dictatorships (4.71 / 7) (#42)
by radish on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:27:10 AM EST

I'm not sure I would agree that Iran under the Shah was a typical Middle Eastern dictatorship (aside from being Shi'ite, non-Arabic and having more money than most).  for one thing, both the Shahs (Mohammad Reza, the one we now think of as "the Shah", and his father Reza) really went overboard trying to modernize (and westernize) Iran; promoting public education, doing big public works projects and construction, secularizing society and so forth, and it worked.  it was a significant aspect of Mohammad Reza's downfall - not only because it gave the mullahs something to complain about but because by the 70s there were a lot of people well enough educated and well enough fed that they could see the paranoid megalomaniac under the veneer of benevolence.

too, by Middle East standards, Iranians had already tasted quite a bit of ostensible democracy and freedom of expression in the 40s, and there was a lot of political sophistication and dissent before the Shah really cracked down in the 50s.  for a while there, Iran really was a constitutional monarchy with a growing middle class, and I think it's reasonable to say that if the British and the US hadn't deliberately fed Mohammad Reza's paranoia, neither the fight with Mossadeq nor the eventual Islamic revolution would ever have happened and Iran would be well on its way to being the kind of hands-off semi-socialist monarchy the UK has today.

maybe I'm just nitpicking about what you mean by "looked like every other", but there's been precious little comment so I thought I'd throw that out anyway...

[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by EricsTrip on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:40:07 AM EST

I agree with your comment - I guess the statement 'typical Middle Eastern dictatorship' was fairly vague. I meant the term in the sense of autocracy, banning of opposition movements, and so on, which can be compared to Saudia Arabia or Iraq. The Shah's crackdown and his authoritarian rule really accelerated in the 60s-70s, but I agree that he was a modernizer or at least tried to be one while balancing his population and the demands of the US.

I cannot speculate on what would have happened if there was no revolution, but it is also true that the same secularizing decrees like the banning of the veil and the requirements of Western dress did not sit well with the traditional-minded population, which outnumbered the secular elite, so the potential for conflict would always exist.

[ Parent ]

Re: Yes (4.00 / 2) (#55)
by radish on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:06:07 PM EST

In the autocratic sense, definitely.  and I agree that the rapid secularization made a lot of people uncomfortable, possibly exacerbated by the memory of British and US intervention, which as I understand it was something of an open secret there.

it's interesting to contrast Iran then with Saudi Arabia now.  even without secularization the western influence and presence pisses a lot of people off (to put it mildly), and I keep wondering whether the royal family's power is dependent on some demographics that are changing awful fast.  popular revolutions require communication, Iran was way ahead of SA in terms of public education and literacy, and now that SA is catching up (where Iran was in the 60s maybe?), I can't help but wonder whether history is about to repeat itself.  I don't know whether the secret police in SA inspire the same hatred that Savak did in Iran, but there sure are a lot of disaffected people roaming the neighborhood.

[ Parent ]

Vote Monitoring (4.00 / 4) (#48)
by pgrote on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 10:11:14 AM EST

Was President Jimmy Carter on hand to monitor the voting process as he has done in other countries?

Obligatory US Flame (2.00 / 3) (#56)
by duffbeer703 on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 02:13:01 PM EST

No USian has any right to even ready this story. US abuses killed 1.5 million children under 5 years old every year until brave Imans overthrew the Shah.

Word has it that the United States has supplied reactionary elements within Iran with used voting machines from Florida. It is obvious that the reform-minded politicians were cheated out of the vote by third party candidates and the opposition of the big oil companies.

I intend to take a day off and travel to New York City to protest these egrarious abuses.

Voter Turnout (4.50 / 2) (#61)
by Bad Harmony on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 05:45:47 PM EST

Michael Ledeen, a contributing editor for National Review Online, wrote an interesting column on the Iranian elections. According to his sources, about one percent of the eligible voters in Tehran actually voted. That is qualitatively different than "low turnout".

5440' or Fight!

interestion (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by jjayson on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 07:15:47 PM EST

I think in the New Year's prediction story, one of my predictions for the year was that President Khatami would threaten to step down, again. I understand his criticism. He has jailed some of his friends and supporters, so I think Michael Ledeen has a point. But, he doesn't look to see where the pressure is coming from. Surely if the Guardian Council wouldn't have forced his hand on these issues, they wouldn't have happened. With the clerical body's ability to veto legislation, Khatami has to be careful. Bills have to be crafted in such a way as to pass under the watchdog group's radar. It is easy to criticize without seeing the surrounding context.

Just a quick think about his numbers. In Tehran the Interior Ministry (which controls the elections) reports that 1.8 million came out to vote in Tehran, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency. The 4 million versus 7 million depends on how you count as residents to the city. I should have gone with the more inclusive number in retrospect.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]

Splitting the vote? (1.00 / 1) (#65)
by jmc on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 08:54:31 PM EST

You mention the reformers lost in part due to splitting their vote. Were winners elected via a plurality, or was there some sort of instant runoff system to make sure the winners had majority support? It seems like you would definitely need runoffs in an election with ~100 people running for each seat! Even then, levels of support for many candidates would be so low that the differences in number of votes would be almost random.

Here in the US, runoffs are generally used only at the local (i.e. city council) level... it's "broken by design" for most statewide and national races, which require only a plurality of support. This is partly due to "legacy elections code" in our constitution, and partly due to the desire of current incumbents to maintain a system that prevents third parties from making significant electoral inroads.


I don't know (none / 0) (#66)
by jjayson on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 09:04:29 PM EST

I have no idea what kind of municipal election system is used.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
Dead already? (none / 0) (#68)
by jjayson on Thu Mar 06, 2003 at 01:00:25 AM EST

Is my story dead after only 50 topical comments? This sucks. I thought the massive success in voting would imply more interesting and hence more discussion.
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

Municipal Elections From Iran | 69 comments (52 topical, 17 editorial, 1 hidden)
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