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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

February 26, 2004

February 26, 2004





**  Iranian dailies split:  reformers urge "reconciliation"; conservatives hail a "clear-cut victory."


**  The electoral "charade" deals a "deadly blow" to reforms, say foreign observers.


**  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' triumph.




'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 liberal enough.  


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 economy."


'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' 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 reforms."


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.




IRAN:  "Fundamental Contradiction"


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 Majlis."


"Difficult Task Ahead For Seventh Majlis"


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.'"


"Protest Trend"


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 Policies"


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 be accelerated."


"Historical Presence"


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 People"


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."


INDIA:  "Conservatives 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."


"Conservative 'Coup'"


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."


PAKISTAN:  "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."




BRITAIN:  "Iran Theocrats’ Coup”


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."           


FRANCE:  "Resigned"


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 Way"


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 East.”


GERMANY:  "Iranian Semi-Dictatorship"


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 long."


"Still Rocky"


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."


"Nice Elections"


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 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 flame."


"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, whatsoever."


"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.”


RUSSIA:  "Iranians 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."


"Shared Goals"


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 Over--For Now"


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 chadors."


"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 Electoral Victory"


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." 


TURKEY:  “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 Foregone Conclusion"


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 Changes"


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."




AUSTRALIA:  "The 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.”


CHINA:  “Iran’s 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 Elections"


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."   


SINGAPORE:  "Clerics 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 falls."


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 elections?”




CANADA:  "Iranian Mourning"


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 way."


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 Islamism." 



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