February 26, 2004
IRAN ELECTION 'FARCE': 'THEOCRATS' TEAR AWAY
'LAST REFORMIST VEIL'
** Iranian dailies
split: reformers urge
"reconciliation"; conservatives hail a "clear-cut victory."
** The electoral
"charade" deals a "deadly blow" to reforms, say foreign
** Optimists say
liberalization was only "postponed...not stopped" by the election.
** The "declining
prestige" of reformist President Khatami is a factor in the hard-liners'
'Fundamentalists' won, but low turnout showed a 'protest
trend'-- Conservative Iranian
dailies said voters acted with "enthusiasm and fervor" to toss out
reformists. Keyhan blasted
"external enemies and their domestic followers" for trying to
"sabotage" the vote. Jomhuri-ye
Eslami urged the new Majlis to "rectify and adjust the
perversions" of the previous liberal one.
Reformist papers countered that reform is "an inevitable
process," and that conservatives won because of a ban on reformist
candidates and citizens' "boycotting the elections." Pro-Khatami papers urged "restraint and
moderation"; opposition dailies such as Nasim-ye Saba blamed the
reformers' defeat on "middle-of-the-road policies" that were not
Back in the 'darkness of the Islamic dictatorship'-- Global dailies saw "blatant rigging and
intimidation" in the "controlled farce" of an election. A German paper termed the "low voter
turnout" a rejection of the "political theocratic order"; Asian
writers agreed the "mullah-cracy" could not retain "power
without the aid of a decidedly unspiritual mailed fist." Euro outlets predicted Tehran would opt for a
"Chinese model" which, said France's right-of-center Le Figaro,
would involve "closing the political arena but liberalizing the
'Demographic forces' favor reform-- As most Iranians "want democracy," the
"psuedo-election" is just a "waystation on the path to a better
future," said optimistic editorials.
Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo noted the "longing for personal
liberty" among Iran's "youngest segment," agreeing with
Austria's centrist Die Presse that a "fresh wind" may
"eventually sweep away all the musty black gowns and chadors." Montreal's liberal Le Devoir warned
instead that "religious fanatics" may force the "'street'...to
answer with the only thing it has left: violence."
Reformers lost popularity among a 'deeply disillusioned'
public-- Some writers held
Khatami's "delusion that the Islamic Republic could be reformed from within"
responsible for creating a perception he was the "Ayatollahs'
stooge." Germany's right-of-center Die
Welt said reformers "were punished by disappointed Iranians...fed up
with...Khatami's hesitant tactical maneuvers." Leftist dailies also assailed the U.S.'
"confrontational approach"; India's independent Ananda Bazar
Patrika said "true democratic and reformist forces" lost
credibility after being marked as "agents of imperialism." Pakistani dailies agreed that Iranians
"rejected the U.S. plan of bringing in secularism in the name of
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis was based on 57 reports from 20 countries over 18 - 25 February
2004. Editorial excerpts from each
country are listed from the most recent date.
Reformist Persian-language Etemaad held
(2/24): "Apart from facing internal
contradictions and disagreements, the conservatives face a fundamental
contradiction, which, if they are capable of resolving, their presence in the
seats of power would be effective and useful; but if they fail in this task,
this contradiction, which we describe below, will escalate to a peak.... Now, if the conservatives are sincere in
their promise to develop the country and if internal obstacles allow them to
move in that direction and their traditional management and methods allow them
to overcome society's complex problems, they would have done nothing really but
to increase the number of people seeking their rights and freedoms...and if they
do not act on their promise...they would even have problems with the 15 per
cent or so of the people, who sent them to the Majlis for the sake of bread. It
seems that the gentlemen are fully aware of the contradiction that if they
raise the level of public prosperity, people would immediately become more
conscious and the level of expectations would rise from wanting bread to
gaining freedom--and freedom is exactly what they [the conservatives] do not
want or at least, they vehemently opposed it during the length of the sixth
"Difficult Task Ahead For Seventh
Hassan Hanizadeh wrote in the conservative
English-language Tehran Times averred (2/24): "The initial results of the Islamic
Republic's seventh parliamentary election showed that fundamentalists gained
more than 70 per cent of Majlis seats....
Over the past few decades, the US and other Western countries, in
selfish pursuit of their own interests, staged military coups to facilitate the
rise to power of dictators in Islamic and Arab states, who violently suppressed
their own people when they demanded their rights. This type of oppressive rule actually
compelled opposition forces to adopt an armed policy and to carry out
underground activities.... When a nation
reaches a dead end in regard to its ruler and when aggressors only consider
their own interests and ignore the inalienable rights of other nations, then
fundamentalism will naturally arise, for there is no alternative except to
return to Islamic principles and values....
There are currently two poles in the world, Islam and the West. Despite the negative propaganda, Islam is not
opposed to other civilizations and values cooperation among members of
different religions.... The U.S. and
other Western countries intend to weaken the main pillar of the Islamic
Revolution.... After years of political
trials, Iranians once more voted for the most significant figures of the
country, those who faced the harshest internal and external propaganda attacks.
In fact, the people of Iran put the revolution back on the right track.... Iranian voters showed the world that Western
propaganda cannot deceive them, that they will consciously determine their
fate, and that they are tired of factional disputes that only sap the strength
and waste the resources of the nation....
At the end of the day, the Iranian nation pays no heed to the US and
Western opinion of fundamentalist figures in the new Majles."
"Victory Or Defeat"
Ali Salehabadi stated in Persian-language
pro-reform Tehran-based Hambastegi (2/23): "Eliminating a considerable number of
reformists from the elections and the lack of competition in 190
precincts...prepared the stage totally for the victory of their rivals.... Therefore, the election between the
reformists and conservatives was without competition in 50 percent of the
precincts. This was the main reason for
the victory of the conservatives. The
preliminary results of vote counts for the Seventh Majles show that despite the
participation of some reformists and the president's call for people to
vote...the level of people's participation...was lower than the six previous
Majlis elections. The reason for this is
the rejection of reformists and lack of competitiveness in the elections.... The difference in the percentage of voters
between the Sixth and the Seventh Majles was the people's reaction to the
rejection of reformists and the boycotting of the election.... Conservatives entered past elections with
ideological slogans and identities....
Apparently instead of ideological slogans they are promising service,
welfare, development, peace, security, etc.
to the people. The results in a
number of small and large cities show that the people are gradually distancing
themselves from both reformists and conservatives and electing independent
candidates without political affiliations.
Observations of the quality and quantity of voters show that, unlike
other elections, the educated, the experts, and the youth were apathetic.... This shows the inefficiency of the Seventh
Majles in meeting the needs of this large and influential group. Therefore, since conservatives did not enter
the elections with their real identities, and their major figures were either
not candidates or dropped out at the last minute, they cannot claim
victory. In contrast, and in comparison
with other elections, the effect of the elimination of reformists and their
boycotting the elections on the national level and in large cities is
meaningful...and will resurface once more in the future."
"Not Defeated, But..."
Reformist, Persian-language Etemaad declared (2/22): "The reformists have not been defeated
but the conservatives, appearing under the cover of their lists, were able to
benefit from the forced absence of the reformists and take over control of the
seventh Majlis. In any case, after the staging of the eventful elections of the
1 Esfand [20 February], a new chapter has opened in Iran's political
developments.... Ali Mazru'i, a
disqualified deputy who could not stand in the elections, told our
correspondent: 'As we predicted, the conservatives won seats in 190
constituencies, where there was no competition'.... Describing the future of the reformists, he
said: 'In any case, new circumstances have come about which need to be
analyzed. The reformists should review their organizational relations and plan
for the mobilization of their supporters'....
Elaheh Kula'i, who did not take part in this round of elections because
she was disqualified by the Guardian Council, told our correspondent: 'the reforms will continue since they are an
unstoppable current...we have seen how the conservatives presented themselves
to society under the cover of reformist slogans and programmes.... She emphasized that the behaviour of
reformists needs to be analyzed and assessed'.... Amir Mohebian, member of the editorial board
of Resalat [a conservative newspaper], emphasized in his reply to the
correspondent of Etemaad: The people shouted in a loud voice that they
do not accept extremists on any sides. He said: 'The victorious faction should
prevent the elimination of the losing side and keep away from using aggressive
and radical language.'"
Reformist, Persian-language Nasim-ye Saba said (2/22): "Without doubt, this protest trend...on
the part of the majority of the people, is a clear response to the 'middle of
the road' policies and procrastination of the directors of reforms in the
country's political development."
"The Iranian Nation"
Tehran-based Persian-language conservative Jomhuri-ye Eslami
stated (2/22): "Newspapers
yesterday, with regard to news about the Seventh Majlis election, were divided
into three different groups. One group was perplexed and immensely astonished
by the results. Another group were mirrors that reflected power and pride, and
the third group paid homage to the people and the nation for their heroic act
and vigilant presence in the election, treated the enemy of people and country
with contempt.... The amazed and
astonished, if they learn from the events of yesterday and tread the straight
path from now on, can gain from the...election.... To be able to rectify past mistakes and find
the right and just path is the greatest gain. Those who insisted the Iranian
people would not participate in the election and who used to even add that the
Majles that was formed by this election would lack legitimacy...they must now
admit to their mistakes and apologize for the disfavor they did to the people
and Islamic Republic system. They must be ashamed of having concurred and
colluded with the enemies of this nation, and they should to try to mend past
blunders.... The condition of the second
group is far more dangerous. They feel power and pride and believe that they
have triumphed in this election. They have, right from this moment, called
their rivals 'the isolated'... and they are drafting plans for the country's
domestic and foreign policy. They are in a more dangerous spot.... and should learn from the destiny of those
who in the 1 Esfand election received a harsh "NO" from the people.
They should realize that the latter fell into the abyss because of the drunken
behavior they displayed after tasting the wine of power. They failed to adopt
the ethics of victory, disregarded the advice and warnings of friends and
benefactors, and trotted with the savage horse of power.... In this melee, neither the amazed, nor the
proud and arrogant are right, because the truth is that on 1 Esfand, it was the
nation that triumphed.... If we want to
summarize all this and give the essence in just one sentence, we must say that
the Iranian nation is a follower of Imam Khomeyni."
"Moderation Instead Of Retaliation"
The pro-Khatami English-language Iran News
held (2/22): "The ballot counting
process in most smaller precincts are now over with the winners already
identified.... In a development that was
anything but a surprise, conservatives garnered a majority of the votes cast in
most constituencies. However, what's
important is how the conservatives will react and behave from this point
forward. Will they adopt a moderate and sensible strategy or will they gloat
about their victory and try to take it out on their political adversaries just
ousted from power? It should be reminded that the reformists were widely
criticized in 2000 after appearing to gloat in their triumph and belittling
their rivals pursuant to their landslide win in the Sixth Majlis
elections. During the last few years,
the relationship between the conservatives and the reformists has been
confrontational and bitter to say the least. Now, the question many political
analysts are asking is whether the hard-liners in the conservative camp are
determined to act against the reformers or whether the more moderate elements
within the conservative wing will be successful in managing to tame the radical
right-wingers? Pundits also wonder whether the leadership of the Seventh Majlis
will be a hard-line one or instead adopt a more middle of the road approach? In
any event, those in the know insist that no matter who among the conservative
faction is in the driving seat, settling of scores should not be a strategy
pursued by the victors. In any democracy there are rules. The rules of the game
in any given democracy forbid taking revenge on your political opponents once
you have unseated them from power. If a new round of bans, arrests and judicial
proceedings against reformists and leftist intellectuals is to be in order, the
political tension that is sure to follow would undoubtedly create economic and
social instability.... Iran has so many
severe social and economic problems that it is mind-boggling.... The country requires more reconciliation and
compromise than revenge and conflict. Last but not least, hasn't the run-up to
this year's parliamentary vote been controversial enough already? Instead of
more controversy, it is much more advisable for a 'religious democracy' such as
ours to practice restraint and moderation than score settling and retaliation."
"The Critical Factions And Tomorrow's
Amir Mohebian wrote in conservative Tehran-based Persian-language Resalat
(2/21): "Regardless of the efforts
by the radical elements, the 7th Majlis election was held, and a short time
after the counting of the votes, the results will become clear. There is no doubt that as I had written
earlier, 1 Esfand [February 20, 2004] will become an unforgettable day in the
process of democratic developments in Iran.
The radicals being pushed aside is the good news that this election will
bring to everyone.... Does the faction
critical of the government taking over the Majlis again mean the death of the
reforms and democracy in Iran? The
reforms are a serious and valuable process, and they are not a factional
project. I believe that the faction
critical of the government not only considers the reforms to be valuable and
vital for Iranian society, but unlike the weaknesses and inabilities of those
claiming the reforms, it will strongly carry out the Iranian reforms as a
correct method for resolving problems at all levels.... Does the possible victory by the critical
faction mean that social and political pressures will be placed on society?.... The faction critical of the government in
guiding the society intends, by selecting rational and intelligent methods
through creating awareness and not pressure, especially the physical kind, will
pursue the expansion of positive and proper values in society.... The freedom of the media was the great
achievement of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and no one has the right to harm
the image of the system inside and outside of the country with closed-minded
actions, and portray an anti-freedom image of Islamic Iran in which the freest
men played a role in its founding. Will
the critical faction pursue settlement of accounts and revenge against the
reformers after coming back into power?.....
The critical faction will in no way repeat this mistake.... There are great problems facing our dear
Iran, and they require abilities and will go beyond those of one group and
faction, and there is a need for a national will and tolerance for each
other. Therefore there is no intention
of revenge and childish settlement of accounts.... Will the critical faction move towards radicalism
on foreign policy issues? Iran's foreign
diplomacy has always tried to observe the barometers of rationality and
prudence. The thinkers in the critical
faction will undoubtedly try to increase the level of its rationality and
expediency through the maintaining of values and ways of the Islamic
Revolution.... Policies of tension
reduction and the establishment of better relations with the world, through the
expansion of respectful bilateral political relations which continue, will even
Tehran-based conservative Persian-language Jomhuri-ye Eslami
held (2/21): "Within the past 10
days the Iranian people have proudly surpassed two great tests...the procession
for the 22 Bahman [11 February, Revolution Day] and the Election for the
seventh Majlis on the 1st of Esfand [20 February]. Although the arrogant powers and their
lackeys inside the country--who are constantly talking about democracy and the
view and wish of the people--agree...whatever is against their interests is not
considered democracy; yet the Iranian nation, because it also did not launch a
revolution according to the wish and pleasure of arrogant powers and their
lackeys inside, so too they do not care about their judgment now, and continue
their path disregarding completely their wishes.... They have already passed their judgment about
this election and have called on Iranians to stay home and refuse to turn up at
the ballot boxes, but people did the exact opposite and created another heroic
epic yesterday by rushing to polling stations with enthusiasm and
fervor.... We ought to congratulate the
Iranian nation on this great occasion....
The first is that to the same degree that the Iranian nation took part
in this election wisely and prudently and acted according to its revolutionary
and national duty, the enemies of the people too proved how wrong they had been
in their analysis of the events and understanding of the people.... That which is of great importance is that the
forecasts of enemies of Iranian nation always prove to be wrong.... The election proved once more the momentous
role and key position of Velayat-e Faqih [Guardianship of Supreme
Jurisprudence] in advancement of the goals of revolution to rectify and adjust
the perversions and preventing the realization of the wishes of foreign enemies
of revolution and the internal opponents of system and country and the
nation.... Foreign enemies and internal
dissidents had dreamt great dreams for the seventh Majlis Election. After they realized that they could not win
this election the way they had figured out and form the seventh Majlis
according to their plan, they did everything to prevent the election from being
held.... No group or party or faction
should become either arrogant or sorry and frustrated. The present incumbent Majlis deputies also
must try to compensate the past and from now on try to stick to their duties
and therefore prove they are respecting the wishes of the people...and do everything
to neutralize and stem the conspiracies of the enemies."
"Vote The Women In"
Hamid Golpira wrote in the conservative
English-language Tehran Times (2/19):
"Iran’s seventh Majlis election since the victory of the Islamic
Revolution is being held tomorrow, providing an excellent opportunity for
voters to make the parliament more representative by voting for women
candidates. The current Majlis is less
than five percent women. Most countries
have a much higher percentage of women parliamentarians.... The issue of women’s rights is one of the
most important issues of the Islamic ummah (community). Women’s voices must be
heard.... However, we should not vote
for candidates just because they are women.
Rather, we should vote for women candidates who have the knowledge and
experience necessary to be parliamentarians.
Since Iran does not have any law guaranteeing women representation in
the Majlis, the electorate must make an effort to vote for more women to
correct the imbalance. It would be ideal
to have a legislature that was 20 to 30 percent women, but the new Majlis must
be at least 10 percent women....
Empowerment of women was one of the original ideals of the Islamic
Revolution. Increasing the number of
women MPs would strengthen Iran, the Islamic Revolution, and the worldwide Islamic
movement.... Unfortunately, the
disqualification of a large number of potential candidates has discouraged some
people from voting. It would truly be a
colossal missed opportunity if the number of women Majlis deputies did not rise
due to a low turnout."
"Tomorrow Is The Day Of Destiny"
Mohammed Kazem Anbarlouie held in conservative
Tehran-based Persian-language Resalat (2/19): "Tomorrow thousands of candidates for
the Seventh Majlis will put themselves to the vote...and on average more than
17 candidates will compete for each seat....
Some have unkindly said that this is not a competitive election. What is interesting is that these same people
who have talked about boycotting and not participating have been more active
than all the others. Without a doubt,
the people will cast their votes, which is the manifestation of judgment in
this arena for divine competition in the ballot boxes, and what the result may
be and with whatever composition the next Majlis is formed, it should be
respected by all.... The goal of all of
the rumors and insinuations is to reduce the number of votes cast and boycott
the election, meaning the same horrid goal that the enemies of Islam and the
country have designed to reduce the popular acceptance of the system in order
to carry out dangerous conspiracies....
Turning one's back on the ballot box is not the way to correct the work
and performance of the Majlis or improve it....
We should not think that if a group or some individuals succeed in
gaining entry into the Majlis the country will turn into heaven, or if some
others did not make it in the country will turn into hell.... Those who think about the grandeur and
dignity of Islam and Iran should not say things that show that deep in their
hearts they are wishing for inactive elections.... The first demand of the people in the oath of
a deputy is the safeguarding of the boundary of Islam and the achievements of
the revolution and the bases of the Islamic Republic."
"Reformers Still Active"
Pro-Khatami Persian-language Tehran-based Towse'eh
declared (2/19): "The electoral
campaigns of the Majlis candidates have revealed that despite the ongoing
conservative propaganda that the reform movement is on the verge of being
defeated, reformers will keep their movement active for many years to
come.... In other words, the influence
of the reform movement on Iran’s political developments has been such that even
opponents of improvement and progress have come to recognize that reform is an
inevitable process.... Unfortunately
some people, influenced by the conservatives, believe that reformers failed to
achieve their objectives...whereas it was because of the conservatives that the
reformers were prevented from achieving their economic and political goals.”
"Unfavorable Atmosphere In Truth"
Reformist Tehran-based Persian-language Sharq
observed (2/19): "The current
election news coverage of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network
(IRIB) was completely different from its coverage of the last city and village
council elections. It went on to say
that IRIB was acting as if voter turnout in the upcoming elections would be
very high. However, the Islamic Republic
News Agency has underlined that the future of the country necessitates that a
large number of people cast votes, and it does not conceal the fact that the
electoral atmosphere in some cities is still unfavorable.... Meanwhile, it seems that the foreign media
coverage of the crucial event is quite biased.... The foreign radios constantly give the
impression that the country is on the verge of a political turmoil.” (Note:
This editorial appeared in the last issue of Sharq before it was
banned by the government.)
"What Will Be The Stance Of The
Amir Reza Por Helm noted in pro-Khatami
Tehran-based Persian-language Mardom Salari (2/19): "The atmosphere in the country is the
atmosphere of election. The leaders talk
about people's enthusiasm and excitement, and people unbelievably are just as
unpredictable as they were in previous periods.
The newspapers, even those that have withdrawn from the election, are
somehow involved in the election atmosphere.
Meanwhile, you hear things said on behalf of the people with confidence,
and almost everyone is convinced that people will turn up: television, newspapers, religious
authorities, etc.... The slogan of
justice has filled the climate in society, one can smell justice and fairness
in the air, and the candidates have all pinned hopes on the people. People have become very important, and the
discussion over national security has made a kind of special psychological
atmosphere prevail over the society. A
kind of worry mixed with hope is felt in the political atmosphere of the
country. Upon hearing the phrase
'national security,' one feels there should be formed a kind of national
solidarity to neutralize conspiracies and plots. And the participation of the people--it is
interesting that the Majlis speaker also is asking the people to come forth,
and so is the president; and what will be the response on Friday? Will people respond to the efforts made by
these two reformists?"
"The Next Step"
Hossein Shari'atmadari stated in conservative
Tehran-based Persian-language Keyhan (2/18): "Developments over the last few months
convince even the most skeptical persons that external enemies and their
domestic followers are extremely afraid of free and fair holding of the seventh
parliamentary election. This is because
purging the Majlis from agents of the enemy and preventing the pollution of the
seventh Majlis by this center of insurgency and conspiracy is the least and
first consequence of a free and popular election. To foreign powers that have been investing
much to find and strengthen their foothold in the sixth Majlis, this means that
all their efforts have been wasted....
Now that legal steps for the seventh parliamentary election have been
made despite all obstructive attempts and obstacles and ceaseless plots have
been defeated strongly...efforts must be made to protect the people's votes and
prevent the possibility of fraud and offenses during the election. The possibility of fraud...must be regarded
as a serious danger.... This is because
pro-foreign forces to which holding a free and fair election is an end to its
parasitic existence and the corrupt officials who owe to these forces and
control some government agencies respect no law or regulation.... Though the counter-revolutionary and illegal
sit-in, and America's direct support of sit-inners, threatening some executive
officials to convince them to resign in support of this counter-revolutionary
attempt.... This pro-foreign group and
tens of others all were defeated and thwarted as the result of the divine
wisdom of the eminent Leader of the revolution.... All officials that play a role in organizing
the election, especially the Council of Guardians and the Ministry of Interior,
are expected to be alert to suspicious measures and do their best to protect
votes of the people that are trusted to them."
Win In Iran"
Calcutta-based centrist Urdu-language Azad Hind contended
(2/24): "This time the general
election in Iran got special importance, as the U.S. President George W. Bush
made Iran and Syria targets after Iraq. Iran clashed with the U.S. in the past.... The Guardian Council's mass disqualification
of around 2,500 candidates belonging to the reformist camp predetermined the
outcome. It was alleged that it systematically eliminated competition to
conservative candidates in a large number of constituencies. But it should also
take into account that this time the voters practically paid almost no
attention to the call of election boycott given by the reformists.... Now that the people have given its dictum and
the power has reached again to the hands of the conservatives the possibility
of confrontation between Iran and the U.S. will increase and the affairs of
Iran may turn out to be more intricate. If the new government practices
strictness and takes a hard stand, establishment of peace will come out to be a
major factor. If the conservatives do not show real wisdom in controlling their
internal affairs the U.S. and other foreign enemies will get chances for
meddling in Iran's affairs and if it happens the Iranians will certainly have
to suffer much hardship."
"Own Achievement And Bush's Deed"
Calcutta-based Bengali-language independent Ananda Bazar
Patrika declared (2/24): "The
result of parliamentary elections in Iran shows that nothing unexpected did
happen. The majority of seats have gone to the possession of the conservatives
favored by of Mullahs. It was understood long before that something like this
could happen.... The U.S. has called
this election a 'farce'.... The
mullah-cracy may be agitated and offended in the reaction expressed by the
U.S. But keeping in the mind the
experience of the previous two elections it can be safely said that the present
election was never a free one. The main reason behind this was the effort by
the mullah-cracy to totally control the election. But who is behind the facts
that the mullahs were able to regain their unity, that having acquired new
strength and fresh vigor they were able to overcome the reformists that they
were not flooded out by the general people demanding democracy? Today's West
Asia (Middle East conflict) must be held responsible for this. U.S. occupation
and aggression on the Shiite-dominated neighboring country of Iraq is also
responsible. The strategic tactics of George W. Bush to keep Iran in the same
bracket with North Korea within the 'axis of evil' can also be held
responsible. The U.S. invasion on Afghanistan and Iraq has totally changed the
political equations in Asia. The memory of the imperialist age has been revived
in the mind of the people of this continent....
In reality what the U.S. thinks as the campaign against the terrorism,
has been viewed by the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon or
Palestine as a desire for hegemony by neo-colonialism. The result is that the true democratic and
reformist forces in those countries have been marked as the brokers of the
U.S., anti-nationals, the symbols of capitalistic decadence, and the agents of
imperialism. The mullahs, and the conservative religious leaders took advantage
of it.... Only George Bush knows whether
he has the power and will to understand this or not."
The Bangalore-based left-of-center English-language Deccan
Herald commented (2/23): "In a
manipulated general election in Iran, conservatives maul hopelessly divided
reformists. The sweeping majority that
Iran's conservatives have won in the country's general election was a foregone
conclusion. The Guardian Council's mass disqualification of around 2,300
candidates belonging to the reformist camp, including 80 parliamentarians,
predetermined the outcome. It systematically eliminated competition to
conservative candidates in a large number of constituencies. But another reason
for the poor showing by the reformists is that when in power they failed to
meet popular expectations for reform and change.... While the manipulation of the electoral
process is the most important reason for the conservative landslide, reformists
must take responsibility for their own flawed strategies.... The victory in the general election leaves
just one institution--the presidency--in reformist control. The presidential election is due next year
when reformist President Mohammed Khatami's second term comes to an end.
Whether the reformists can close ranks and put up a spirited challenge against
the conservatives remains to be seen. There is a possibility that confrontation
between Iran and the US will increase, especially with the Iranian parliament
too falling to the conservatives. The victory of the conservatives will no
doubt deal a deadly blow to the reform process and undermine democratic and
other rights of the Iranian people, especially those of women. However
distasteful that might be, it cannot be used as an excuse for meddling in
Iran's affairs by external forces."
"Conservatives' Victory In Iran And America"
Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt asserted
(2/24): "With its folly America has
ruined the prospects of Dr. Khatmi and his reformist associates thus wasting
the entire effort for reform.... It is
to be seen what would become of other governments at the hand of the voters of
those countries where America supports the rulers."
“Success Of Conservatives In Iran: A Lesson For USA”
Karachi-based, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu-language Islam
editorialized (2/23): "The
clear-cut victory of hard-line conservatives In Iran has proved that the
Iranians have rejected the U.S. plan of bringing in secularism in the name of
reforms. The extraordinary success of
conservatives is a result of present international situation and a reaction of
Iranian public over the growing U.S. pressure on Iran. This also shows that
hatred against U.S. policies is growing among people the world over."
"Iran’s Parliamentary Elections”
Karachi-based, right-wing, pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat
maintained (2/23): "Despite the
fact that full election results in Iran have not come to the fore, the U.S.
hastily has declined to accept them as 'free or fair.' Interestingly this comment has come from a
country whose last presidential elections had seen unprecedented 'forgery'
resulting in letting George Bush to become President of the U.S. One must not forget that the Iranian
revolution was a result of anti-U.S. resistance. It is also no secret that the
U.S. is enhancing its pressure on Iran on nuclear issue that has directly
affected the election results."
An editorial in the independent Financial Times read
(2/23): "Very much as they expected
and arranged, Iran’s theocrats have wrenched back control of the Majlis or
parliament from the reformists groups around Mohammad Khatami, the president,
ending what turned out to be a delusion that the Islamic Republic could be
reformed from within.... But if the
banners of reform are folded, what will take their place?.... Two reformist newspapers that published this
extraordinary cri de coeur [of intellectuals against the candidates' ban] were
shut down. But that will not stop
theocratic rule from being exposed in all its nakedness, now that the theocrats
themselves have torn away the last remaining reformist veil."
“Iran Lurches To The Right, But We Must Remain Engaged”
The center-left Independent observed (2/23): "The full results of the elections to
the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, will not be known until later this
week. But already it is clear that the
'conservative' supporters of the ruling clerics have won a sweeping
victory.... The Americans responded by
damning the elections: 'These actions do not represent free and fair elections
and are not consistent with international norms.' It would be easy to follow the American path
and dismiss the results out of hand....
But Iran is poised at a critical juncture, and the confrontational
approach adopted by the Bush administration is the worst possible tactic.... Instead of pushing the Iranian leadership
into a corner, the more engaged approach which Britain and the EU has adopted
in the only sensible way forward."
“Pendulum Swing Heralds Another Clash"
David Hirst maintained in the left-of-center Guardian
(2/23): "With its victory in the
parliamentary elections, Iran’s arch-conservative clerical oligarchy has made a
decisive comeback in its long power struggle against President Mohammad Khatami
and his reformists. But by the manner of
it, the blatant rigging and intimidation, it has suffered something at least as
serious--a grievous blow to its own legitimacy and that of the Islamic Republic
as a whole."
Gerard Dupuy maintained in left-of-center Liberation
(2/20): “For Iran’s ‘reformers’ these
elections have a bitter taste.... The
conservatives have maneuvered and prepared the elections so well that many of
their opponents decided they preferred not to take part in the elections. The reformers’ intentions have remained
enmeshed in disillusion and indifference....
Moderate Islam, as embodied by Khatami, proved to be too extreme for
those who hated the regime and proved to moderate to win against the attacks
waged by the conservatives. Time will
tell what the conservatives will do with their ‘electoral’ victory.... When they take over, the conservatives will
note that something has changed: the
American ‘Great Satan’ has gotten rid of the very nasty little Satan, Saddam
Hussein, for them. And their friends,
the Iraqi ayatollahs are in the running for power in Iraq. Tehran’s policy has softened, showing good
will in matters of nuclear armament. But
how are we to interpret the recent findings by the IAEA?.... Are they proof of a danger that will be
enhanced when the hardliners take over?
If many of the Iranian voters are resigned, it is because they feel
things cannot get any worse. But world
peace definitely has something to lose.”
"Iran: The Chinese
Pierre Rousselin observed in right-of-center Le Figaro
(2/20): “Hope in Iran, as symbolized by
the reformers, has come and gone....
Everything has been planned for the conservatives to regain
power.... The events that preceded the
elections prove that democratic transition has failed.... One can expect that after the elections the
conservatives will tighten things and will probably opt for the Chinese
way: closing the political arena but
liberalizing the economy.... The ‘Great
Satan’ appears ready to sign a pact with the conservatives. The idea is to let them re-enforce their
position in order to be able to negotiate with them about Afghanistan, the
fight against al-Qaida, but mostly about Iraq, where the U.S. needs more than
ever Tehran’s neutrality. The Chinese
way in Iran will also serve George Bush’s immediate interests, even if he will
not be able to include it in his ambitious plans for democracy in the Middle
Christiane Hoffmann concluded in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (2/25): "The end of
the power struggle in Iran increases the rulers' ability to act. Pragmatics, who determine the course now,
will try to lure people by popular liberations.
Already today, more American movies are permitted, lifting the satellite
prohibition was promised, and Khatami's liberal foreign policy will be
continued. On the condition that
Washington is also willing, relations to America are even more likely to
normalize under a united Iranian leadership, which is not suspected of being
the fifth column of the West. New
pragmatics said they want to focus especially on economic policy. As Iranian's quality of life has been
shrinking for years, the system could receive more support if they succeed to
stop the fall of the currency and create jobs.
The end of the Iranian reform movement has effects beyond the Islamic
Republic. Another 'third way' experiment
failed with the faltering Islamic democracy.
If Iranians had succeeded to establish an alternative to the western
system, tailor-made for the region's history and social realities, it could
have attracted the entire Islamic world.
The Tehran semi-dictatorship can no longer claim any moral leadership or
even being a model."
"The Islamic Revolution Goes On"
Frank Herold stated in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung
(2/24): "Reformers, euphorically
supported by a large part of the people when they started six years ago, did
not fail because of the traditionalists' diehard resistance, but because of
themselves. They destroyed their
formerly broad basis by broken promises, inconsequence, and halfhearted
tactics. Announced changes and
liberalization of society were performed too slowly--and finally stopped. However, the victorious Conservatives will
not be in the position to turn back the clock.
All they can do is to continue banning opposition parties and
newspapers, lock away dissidents or drive them into exile. But they will not be able to oppress the
political debate completely. It is also inconceivable that buses will go
through Tehran again, picking up all women who are not 'correctly'
dressed.... Khatami has already
indicated a pragmatic foreign policy, when he admitted international
inspections of the nuclear program.
Western politicians seem to be willing to take up this
pragmatism--without thinking about the failure of reformers and democracy too
Right-of-center Die Tagespost of Wuerzburg opined
(2/24): "The children of the
Khomeini revolution are still too young to take political power, and the path
to a freedom-loving constitutional state is still very rocky. But the seeds of the well-trained and
critical Iranian elite during the Khatami years will bear fruit some day in the
future. A new dynamic could emanate from
them on the regional Muslim world, which will question the despotic,
patriarchic and nationalistic traditions of Islam. The outcome of the Iranian parliamentary
elections is being celebrated by government officials as a victory of the
Islamic revolution, but it is to be hoped that, in the long run, a new, free
Iran can develop from the ideas of Iran's reformers for independence and the
freedom of opinion by protests from the inside and with the help of
international pressure from the outside."
Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger said in center-right Frankfurter
Allgemeine (2/23): "Iran's
religious leader Khamenei claims that the elections were free and fair...and of
course, Khamenei knows the real losers: Americans, Zionists, and the enemies of
the Islamic nation. But, with your
permission, this is propagandistic nonsense, which is to hush up the fact that
these parliamentary elections were more a controlled farce with a few
requisites than an open election procedure....
The low voter turnout...is a vote of no-confidence and the expression of
a great disillusionment and fatigue among Iranians who have turned away from
their leadership and the political theocratic order on which their power is
based. But they have also turned away
from their president who was considered a liberal, an aesthete who was
celebrated in the West as the great hope, but who lost his attractiveness as
someone who could renew the country.
Hopes crumbled that an Islamic democracy could work. This experiment failed and with it the president.... When the voters turn away from politics and
resort to old means, disappointment must be great and the attractiveness of the
regime small. As a synonym of
intolerance, this is no surprise."
Dietrich Alexander opined in right-of-center Die Welt of
Berlin (2/23): "To consider the
boycott of the elections a success of reformist forces reveals that [the
mullahs] have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. In fact, they were also punished by
disappointed Iranians who are fed up with President Khatami's hesitant tactical
maneuvers. What can be done? We cannot expect a change in Iran's foreign
policy...nor a reversal of freedoms to avoid a revolution. Something must change outside Iran: the free world should not accept this cynical
play for power. Economic and political
sanctions must be stiffened, liberal forces be strengthened. The dissatisfaction of the Iranians who have
fallen into apathy will increase in analogy to mass unemployment and a lack of
perspectives. And the regime will no
longer be able to hide behind a parliament dominated by reformers. The Iranian kettle is boiling--on a low
"It Cannot Be Ignored"
Center-right Koelnische/Bonner Rundschau of Cologne judged
(2/23): "In Tehran, 28 percent went
to the polls, and on the countryside, the Mullahs forced more people to cast
their ballots. But the fate of the country
is decided in the cities....and the figures from Tehran can no longer be ignored. More than two-thirds of the voters refused to
cast their votes for the Mullahs.... In
Shiite-dominated Iran the majority wants democracy and human rights. The West should now find a more rational Iran
policy. Firmer in the matter than most
Europeans, but strategically wiser than poltergeist George W. Bush. And they should pin their hopes on the fact
that this pseudo-election is no more than a waystation on the path to a better
future of Iran."
Evangelos Antonaros commented in right-of-center Die Welt
of Berlin (2/20): "Conservatives
will certainly win the elections, but it is uncertain whether they will achieve
their goal of reversing history, because reformers have recently shown
remarkable courage and started a discussing how much power the highest
religious leader is entitled to have in a theocracy. The debate is not new among Shiite legal
scholars, but it is unusual that hundreds of representatives, who do not belong
to the religious elite, are debating this important issue publicly. That the mass media are not allowed to report
this shows how nervous the mullahs are.
The courageous moves of reformers are evidence of the high quality the
political discussion has reached in Iran.
The conservatives might be successful in discrediting reformers in the
public eye in the short term, but they will not succeed in quelling the
people's outrage with prohibitions and draconian prison sentences."
"The Calm Before The Storm"
Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg
said (2/20): "Iran's
fundamentalists have unnecessarily got the country into a serious crisis. They would have won today's elections anyway,
because many voters are disappointed and would not have turned out, but the
fundamentalists insisted on demonstrating their power once more. They wanted to make clear who is running the
Islamic Republic. The exclusion of 2,000
liberal candidates is not just a serious blow to the democratic development,
but also abandons the hope that Iran could be the first country in the region
modernizing by itself. But conservatives
will be laughing on the other side of their face because they cannot govern
without the support of the people. The
economic problems are enormous and whoever comes into parliament will be under
pressure to change the quality of life rapidly.
Conservatives still benefit from the paralyzing resignation among the
people.... But if the government
continues wearing the people out, the national depression will turn into public
outrage. 70 percent of Iranians are under
30-years-old. Most of them have lost
confidence in politics and want regime change."
ITALY: "Iran: The Day For A Second Revolution Missed"
Mimmo Candito concluded in centrist, influential La Stampa
(2/20): “Today, the day of political
elections, should have been the day marking the end of a long, difficult
period, a time of blood, mourning, desperate and terrible wars...but, at the
same time also the day...of Iran’s return into our world’s annals.... This should have happened. On the contrary, conservatism, continuity,
obsession of a religious fundamentalism, fear of a change, which would alter
the current social power balance, will win.
The Iran voting today already knows that the majority of the new parliament,
Majlis, will pass securely into the hands of Puritans and the most conservative
mullahs.... There is no remedy,
"Iran Lies About Its Nuclear Program"
Gian Micalessin contended in pro-government, leading center-right Il
Giornale (2/20): “Should charges be
proved, it’s going to be a bad blow, especially for the conservative
[supporters,] as well as those who...had hoped to ‘conquer’ parliament again
and to implement a 'Chinese’ model, including internal normalization, economic
liberalization and international negotiations.
This blow below the belt came from Vienna. A blow that...threatens to push back Iran
into the rogue states club. The charge
is clear: Iran, as some members of the
IAEA stated, could be lying and still pursuing its military nuclear
program.... According to Western
diplomatic sources, the demonstration of evidence to the UNSC would prompt
bitter sanctions against the Islamic Republic.”
Disappointed With Democrats"
Mikhail Zygar stated in reformist weekly Vlast (2/23): "The democrats' fate has left Iranians
absolutely indifferent. Only recently
the democrats gave them hope. But
words about democracy will be words.
More and more Iranians see reform-minded Khatami as a member of the
clerical team, the Ayatollahs' stooge, one with a goal that is really a
semblance of reform. Iranians are disappointed with politicians, in general,
and liberals, in particular. After
these elections, Iran is in for the restoration of the old regime. Mullahs, addressing the national parliament,
will continue to harp on loyalty to tradition, protection from the Western
threat, the alien liberal values, and a need to build up the army. Democratization, which thrilled rejoiced
everybody in the 1990s, is over. Now is
the time for stability. But it will not
last long, since Iran, unlike Russia, is a very young country."
Gennadiy Sysoyev commented in business-oriented Kommersant
(2/20): "The current regime in Iran
would hardly change even if the 'reformers' were to win the vote. By and large, the liberals and conservatives
have the same origin, finding inspiration in the founding father and architect
of contemporary Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini.
So, their thriller-type confrontation over the past few weeks has looked
more like a staged show, with the roles assigned and carefully played and the
finale known in advance.... But as shown
by experience, building a system in which opponents are not for real will end
in a disaster. That is a price the
country has to pay for false stability and the authoritarian regime."
AUSTRIA: "The Dream Is
Thomas Vieregge asserted in centrist Die Presse
(2/23): "Is Iran in danger of
falling back into the dark Middle Ages?
Not necessarily. The
fundamentalists know that they won't be able to turn back the clock. Furthermore, the new old ruling class of the
country do not constitute a monolithic block, which is made up exclusively of
ideological hardliners, but in fact also comprises a large number of
pragmatics, who preach the Chinese model: liberalization of the economy,
improvement of foreign relations, granting small freedoms. For now, all this remains a dream--but one
day, after the unavoidable opening to the outside world, a fresh wind might
blow in Iran, and eventually sweep away all the musty black gowns and
"Cheap Victory For The Conservatives"
Gudrun Harrer wrote in liberal Der Standard
(2/23): "The result of the
parliamentary elections in Iran is complex: on the one hand, participation was
considerably lower than four years ago, at the expense of the reformers--too
few of whom stood for election in the first place, and those who did were not
popular enough to achieve victory. The
conservative voters were more inclined to make the effort - but again, not
enough of them did for the winners to return smugly to their agendas--if they
have an ounce of self-criticism left, that is.... Despite their cheap victory, the
conservatives must know that a regime with a religious legitimization, like
that of Iran, cannot survive without the consensus of the population.... It is to be expected that the winners of the
elections will be pragmatic enough not to try and turn back the clock at one
stroke.... A government and a parliament
can be exchanged, but, 25 years after the revolution, the men and women of Iran
are and will most likely remain resistant to Khomeini-ism."
BELGIUM: "Iran Makes
Big Step Backwards"
Frank Schloemer commented in independent De
Morgen (2/23): "Yesterday, the
victorious conservatives were triumphantly speaking about a 'new chapter in the
history of the country.' We should fear
the worst.... The danger is very real in
that country--where human rights were not always respected even under
Khatami--a wave or arrests will take place and that many people who took risks
will go into hiding to escape arrest.
The Parliamentarians who lost their immunity because they were not
reelected or because they were not even allowed to run will be easy victims of
extremely flexible allegations like anti-Islamic activities or undermining of
the republic. They should not entertain
many illusions about the way the religious fanatics will deal with them. That is why it is a positive thing that the
EU said already yesterday evening that it condemns this electoral farce as an
undemocratic affair. The EU will have to
decide soon how it should deal with that farce.
That will not make much impression in Tehran, but, at this moment, it is
not a bad idea to send a warning to those people who are willing to play with
fire in a extremely unstable region and who are working intensively on their
own nuclear program."
"Ayatollahs And Elections"
Frank Schloemer maintained in independent De
Morgen (2/20): "President
Mohammed Khatami fears...that the country will be heading for chaos and
violence if the conservatives prevail in the Parliament and the reactionary
fundamentalist religious leaders have the opportunity to push Iran deeper into
the Middle Ages.... Either the country
is given a chance to continue the reforms--no matter how modest they are--or it
will wind up in the darkness of the Islamic dictatorship where it has been for
a quarter of a century already. The
founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, took the country
in an iron grip 25 years ago and he and his successors turned Iran into an
international pariah--which the U.S. described as a member of the 'axis of
evil.' For a moment, Khatami was a spark
of hope, but the mullahs and their religious police did not lessen their grip
on society.... The outcome of the
elections is of vital importance and, therefore, participation in those
elections is crucial. There is no small
chance that the conservatives will come into power so that they can turn back
time even further and put one of their own people in the seat of the head of
state after next year's presidential elections.
There is no small chance either that a witch-hunt for the supporters of
reforms will break out after tomorrow and that Iran will be confronted with a
wave of violence. Sixty percent of the
Iranian population is younger than 25 and it is difficult to imagine that they
all want to return to the dark days of Khomeini and his epigones. However, the religious police and the army
remain alert. If the situation in Iran
runs out of hand, a new danger will be a fact in the already ravaged Middle
East. That is in no one's interest: not in the region; not in Europe; not in the
rest of the world."
"Iran's Conservatives Are Heading For
Erik Ziarczyk opined in independent financial De
Tijd (2/20): "Behind the
curtains, the conservatives always pulled the strings. They had the last word and prevented a change
of course. In other words, Iran's
government remained totally paralyzed the last four years.... Remarkably, these last few weeks the
political crisis did not lead to massive protest. The Iranian people remained almost totally
silent. That has nothing to do with the
disappointing performances of the reformers.
The Iranians are facing other problems.
Iran is confronted with an economic crisis and only few people have the
courage to challenge the conservative forces.
The conservatives know that very well--and have confidence in the
outcome of the elections. The last few
weeks the reformers--at least those who participate in the elections--did their
utmost to alert their supporters. Today,
it will be clear whether that campaign is successful. In reality, however, the reformers have
already accepted a role in the opposition."
“Elections in Iran”
Yilmaz Oztuna commented in conservative-mass appeal Turkiye
(2/23): “Democracy will never come to
Iran, no matter how many elections are held.
Yet there are some movements in Iran that pose a threat against the
regime. Thus extraordinary steps were
taken to protect the current regime. Our
neighbor Iran, despite all the mutual influences in our respective cultures,
and the closeness that occurred during Ataturk’s time, failed to establish
sincere relations with Turkey. Even when
US intervention seemed imminent, Tehran refrained from any rhetoric against the
PKK, and as a matter of fact, Iran continued to protect the PKK. However, our government is still trying to
get closer to Tehran and perhaps is trying to protect it from US anger. And the Turkish government is doing this by
taking the risk of upsetting the US, which counts on Turkey as its strategic
partner. Vast changes in every field
should be expected in the future, in this geography.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "A
Ahmed Rabhi held in London-based Arabic-language Asharq
al-Awsat (2/22): "Saturday’s
election victory for Iran’s hard-liners was a foregone conclusion.... Despite the low turnout resulting from the
reformists’ boycott call, the elections did take place and they showed that
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami had committed a tactical mistake by calling
for such elections.... Iran faced two
main problems: the failure of the economic and political reform program on a
domestic level and increased international political isolation. Iran faces a compounding unemployment crisis
together with widespread financial and administrative corruption. And if the
hard-liners appeal as they did before to emotions and euphoria in the streets,
they will worsen their country’s economic problems and its international
isolation.... Iran’s enemies must be
celebrating this electoral victory, which, in their eyes, is the quickest way
to political bankruptcy and ruin."
KUWAIT: "No Major
Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Jarallah observed in independent
Arabic-language Al-Seyassah noted (2/22): "Elections in Iran will not produce any
major change as nominees have been controlled by the conservative Council of
Guardians, and as a result the Iranian street will continue to be dominated by
clerics, conservatives and extremists.
The President of the Iranian Republic Mohammad Khatami had been earlier
elected on a reform platform, and was given a second mandate to reform Iran.
However, his hands were tied, and his case became hopeless when he was even
accused of representing the ‘disappointed’ Iranians who had anticipated
reforms.... Actually the Iranian leader
has been stripped of all his powers and has been left with no tools at his
disposal.... In this political scenario,
when the post of the republic’s leader becomes imaginary, people get confused
and do not know who to approach, or which is the highest authority in the
country at a time when the revolution supervisor holds all the strings.... The political situation in Tehran at present
is similar to the time of the shah. The
shah was not ready to leave his post but the Iranians were ready for change and
awaited the coming of the Ayatollah Khomeini.... Khatami should have shouted loud and let
everyone hear his voice just like Khomeini did.
But Khatami...preferred to keep quiet though circumstances were
favorable. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has all the power and
authority--the army, the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence services--a
scenario reminiscent of the last days of the shah when he lost power
to...Khomeini. Iranians were clearly missing the loud and clear voice of
Khatami.... So the reform which is being
anticipated by the Iranian people and the world at large, will not end in
elections. The internal front will be boiling, particularly since the
extremists in Iran will control everything, in spite of the fact they are not a
majority. This act of the Iranian play is not over yet."
Struggle For Iran Comes To A Head"
The liberal Melbourne-based Age declared (2/20): “Iran's change of heart on its nuclear
programs suggests its rulers are not indifferent to world opinion and
events. The U.S. and Europe in
particular should make it clear the full benefits promised by a continuing thaw
in relations--Prince Charles visited Iran last week--will come to nothing
without democratic reform.... With
two-thirds of Iranians aged under 30, demographic forces favor the
reformists. They are likely to be routed
in today's election, but ultimately it may turn out that the hardliners have
overplayed their hand.”
"In Iran, A Show Of Democracy"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald asserted (2/19): “When Iran goes to the polls tomorrow there
will be none of the optimism which has marked the string of resounding
reformist victories since 1997.... The
recent disqualification of 2400 reformist candidates, and the resignation of
hundreds of MPs in protest, mean conservatives and hardliners will stand
unopposed in more than half the electorates.
The reform movement--deeply disillusioned over the false promise of
change--is split. Some reformists favor
a boycott. Others want voters to support reformist candidates where they still
can, if only to prevent a right-wing landslide.
For Iran's sizable reform movement the blatant manipulation of the
electoral process suggests further repression--and probably a drawn-out power
struggle--to come. For the U.S. and its
allies--intent on packaging the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq
as the beginning of the end of authoritarian rule in the Middle East--the
message is clear. When democracy is a
charade, political reform is not closer to hand.”
Conservatives Take Power: No Suspense
About Results, Reform Situation Faces Challenges”
Zhang Shuang and Tang Zhichao wrote in official
Communist Party-run international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao)
(2/23): “The reformists’ failure is no
surprise at all. Many reformist
candidates were forced out, which has greatly reduced the reformists’
competitiveness. What’s more, the
reformists’ rate of support among voters is obviously decreasing.... Western commentators believe that the
election symbolizes ‘the end of reform.’
It’s too early to say. In the
long run, Iranian reform will not end in this manner and it’s not that the
reformists will be unable to recover after this one setback. First, reform is the general course of
development and the must-do of the era.
Second, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei is the final decision-maker in Iranian
politics and diplomacy. Third, the reformists
will not just give up.... They believe
that progressive reform within a certain framework is the only way out.”
"‘Bloody Signs’ Appear In Iran’s Parliamentary
Rong Song commented in official Communist Youth
League-run China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (2/20): “In this year’s political battles, Iran’s conservatives
were aggressive and determined. In
recent years, reformists have been weak in measures of economic development and
satisfying the growing demands of the country.... Therefore conservatives believe they will not
arouse public anger if they deprive the reformists of their candidacy
qualifications through a Constitution Inspection Committee. At the same time, changes in the
international and domestic situation have strengthened the conservatives’
determination. Internationally, since
the Iraq War, the U.S. and its allies have been putting more and more pressure
on Iran. Domestically, the reformists’
promoting democracy and freedom has endangered the Iranian regime’s base. Conservatives think that they must take every
measure to control Iran’s overall political situation and protect the integrity
of the Iranian regime.... The
conservatives will possibly grab a leading role in the parliamentary election
as they did during the fourth parliamentary election in 1992 and have high
hopes about winning the election.”
JAPAN: "Where Has
Iran's Zeal For Democratization Gone?"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (2/23): "Iran's conservative parties secured a
big victory in Sunday's general elections. Although Iranians showed zeal for
democratization when President Khatami was elected in 1997 and also in the
previous general elections in 2000, their enthusiasm for democratization
appears to have disappeared. Were the
latest general elections conducted in a just manner? The State Department formally criticized the
elections as 'being not necessarily free and fair.' EU nations also criticized the 'abnormality
of the elections.' Given a low voter
turnout in Saturday's elections, it is hard to say the conservative parties
secured overwhelming support from the Iranian people. The lower voter turnout
indicated the public's distrust of the present Islamic government. Most Iranians do not want hardliners to
obstruct President Khatami's liberal economic reforms, oppress anti-government
groups or antagonize the world community over their country's suspected nuclear
development program. Hardliners should
realize that if they do not show a flexible and realistic policy, they will
lose public confidence."
With No Clothes"
The pro-government Straits Times editorialized (2/25): "By not speaking, Iranians have spoken,
and their verdict is clear: The ayatollahs, like the Shah before them, do not
have any clothes. At any rate, their legitimacy, including that of the Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been shattered. The run-up to the election,
as well as the success of the opposition's call for a boycott, show beyond
doubt that the clerics are no longer capable of maintaining themselves in power
without the aid of a decidedly unspiritual mailed fist. They knew that if there
had been free elections, the reformers would have triumphed, as they did in
1997 and 2000, which is precisely why they set out to rig the
elections.... And their collapse
now--ideologically and morally, if not yet in fact--will probably take the wind
out of the sails of fundamentalists throughout the Islamic world as well. For
that reason, their demise is an end to be devoutly wished. The West, in particular the U.S., must
calibrate its policies towards Teheran carefully if they are to aid in this
democratic transformation. On the one hand, they cannot afford not to deal with
the current regime, on the grounds that it has suppressed the opposition.
Teheran has shown a readiness to submit its nuclear program to international
inspection--probably so as to reduce pressures on the regime--and this is
something that cannot be jeopardized lightly. On the other hand, Teheran's
willingness to cooperate on nuclear proliferation should not be made grounds
for normalizing relations with the regime, especially now when it seems
weakest. Washington might be tempted to do this, especially if the ayatollahs
offer to help rein in the Shi'ites in Iraq (as they reportedly have in a secret
approach to U.S. officials), but Washington needs to bear in mind that any such
rapprochement will undermine its commitment to democracy in the region. The
ayatollahs are on the run in Iran; they have clearly lost the support of the
majority of Iranians; the West should take care not to be on the wrong side of
history, as it so often has been in the past, when the regime totters and
THAILAND: “Injustice In The
Eyes Of The Unrighteous”
Rachan Husen commented in conservative, Thai-language Siam Rath
(2/24): “It is now certain that the
conservatives will win the majority in the 290-seat majlis although the vote
counting of the Friday elections has yet to be finished. Iran’s ruling body the Guardian Council has
issued a statement congratulating the overwhelming voters’ turnout, estimated
to be no less than 60% of the 46.3-million electorate. The big turnout has disappointed the U.S.,
particularly its media who have ‘lost face’ from their speculation that the
Iranian electorate would ‘boycott’ the event.
Such speculation stemmed from repeated reports that the Guardian Council
had disqualified nearly 3,000 candidates....
Important criteria for the candidacy include a firm belief in Islam and
faith in the Islamic-style of government.
Therefore, those who have been lulled by the West, particularly the
U.S., into trying to change the country’s ruling style and model it upon the
west’s ‘globalized’ pattern were deemed unqualified to run. A country's style of government is unique and
appropriate for its own environment. How
could another country unsolicitiously impose a desired style of government on
it?.... Normally only 50% plus of voters
go to the polls in the U.S. and in some elections, less than 50% turned
out. Can we say Americans boycott those
Serge Truffaut commented in liberal Le Devoir (2/25): "We can expect that the role of
President Khatami will be the focus of the political debate during the coming
months. How long will the leader of the
reformists remain the hostage of a Parliament ever more likely to block his
plans for reform.... How long will he
remain in power in order to avoid a popular uprising which would be unavoidable
were he to resign in the coming weeks? For now, the makeshift arrangements
designed by the Supreme Guide and the guardians of the revolution seem to
indicate the reformers will be muscled into toeing the line until next year's
presidential elections. One of the main figures in the conservative camp
Ayatollah Ahmad Janati gave an indication of what lies ahead when on the day
after the election he described as 'traitors to Islam and the country' all
those who carry the colors of reform. It is a given that the religious fanatics
who subdued Iran by using torture and assassinations will continue on this path
at an even greater pace. This will go on until the street decides to answer
with the only thing it has left: violence."
"Iranian Election Had No Credibility"
The conservative Montreal-based English-language Gazette
opined (2/21): "Yesterday's
election in Iran was a farce. Weeks ago, the hard-line Islamic clerics who run
the country summarily barred about 2,000 liberal candidates, including many
incumbents, from running in this election....
This perversion of democracy effectively gutted the reform-minded forces
in the majlis, or parliament.... The
hard-liners won the election, but have likely done themselves more harm than
good. By their inflexibility they have pushed many moderate dissenters right
out of electoral politics. The political steam bottled up in this way seems
sure to burst out in some other fashion, perhaps in a much more damaging
BRAZIL: "Under The
Rule Of The Mullahs"
Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo maintained (2/23): "The Iranian parliamentary elections
were a farce that completely dissipated the illusion that a truly democratic
political system can prosper in a nation where the power of religion prevails
over any other. The reaffirmation of the radical clergymen's authoritarian
hegemony over democratic institutions and rules is also an ominous warning to
neighboring Iraq.... The commitment of
the Iranian hard liners to block liberalizing reforms supported by modern
sectors of the society and politics is not new.
But never had the mullahs gone that far.... Only a few Iranians still believe that the
president will some day challenge the mullahs' power.... Discontentment with the regime has material
reasons: the per capita GNP has never equaled that of the Shah's period.
Unemployment and poverty are endemic....
The reformers' only hope is that the electoral triumph will be a hard
liners' Pyrrhic victory."
"Elections In Iran"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (2/20): "The circumstances of today's elections
in Iran are outside the norm. Both
reformers and conservatives are divided....
The division among conservatives is the most interesting because they
are the ones who hold the power in Iran.
It also explains the crisis of the candidacies.... The continued prohibitions on candidacies
suggest that the pragmatic conservatives are temporarily in command.... But the split in this regard is not that profound.... The major unknown quantity is the
students. If they were to decide to join
the radical liberals and go to the streets to protest, they could promote
change. However, all indicates that the
split between the conservatives and the declining prestige of the reformers are
helping to keep youth on the sidelines."
"Nation Of The Ayatollahs"
Otavio Frias Filho observed in liberal Folha de S. Paulo
(2/19): "Tomorrow's elections in
Iran may seem remote and intangible....
But what is going on in the nation of the ayatollahs is expected to have
broad implications.... One of the
world's five largest oil producers, Iran is a kind of center of gravity of
Islam. Its strategic position has gained
relevance since Bush sandwiched the nation between liberated Afghanistan and
occupied Iraq.... All indications are
that the fundamentalists will regain control of the parliament, thereby leaving
extra-parliamentary political practice to the 'liberals.' The West's principal weapon against the
fundamentalists is not Bush's arsenal, but the seductiveness of technological
capitalism, the culture of the shopping mall.
Like the democratic movement crushed by the Chinese Communist Party in
1989, the Iranian reformist movement has been propelled by the youngest segment
of the population and its longing for personal liberty. Such a 'revolution' may be postponed, but not
stopped. Its underground strength has
already overthrown socialist totalitarianism and will some day do the same to