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July 19, 2003

Inevitable Democracy, But What Kind?
Mehdi Yahyanejad  [info|posts]

democracy.jpg Establishment of a democratic system in Iran is inevitable; it is only a matter of time. All different ideologies from Marxism to Islam have failed in practice, and desire for democracy has become the common ground for most people. People are highly frustrated with the current system, and all the demographic indicators point out that this frustration is going to increase, not decrease. There will be more jobless youth. There will be more educated women outraged with the systematic discrimination. The countdown has already started.

The good news is that once Iran achieves a representative democracy, it has the minimum qualifications to sustain it. Iranians are relatively well educated. Iran is a less religious and nationalistic country than at any time before, which means that waves of religious fervor or nationalism can not threaten an Iranian democratic system in the near future. Moreover, Iran is not such a poor country. It has enough money to fund a stable government; in fact this has never been an issue in Iran since the discovery of oil. (visit Human Development Report for Iran's status .)

But the challenging question is what type of democracy will be established in Iran. I am not talking about choosing between a constitutional republic and a parliamentary democracy. The question is whether we will have a functional democracy or a dysfunctional one. The number of countries with democratic systems increased by almost fifty percent during the 1990s, but how many of those are true democracies that can bring prosperity, the rule of law, and freedom of expression for all? Let's look at the northern neighbor of Iran, Russia. Although Russia has elections, a mixture of former KGBs, corrupt businessmen, and army officers are in charge of everything. And, they punish who disagrees with them. (who's behind media mogul's arrest? ). There are other dysfunctional democracies as well: Indian democracy lacks prosperity, Italian democracy has unstable alliances between parties, and Israeli democracy is crippled by unresolved religious and national identity.

Iranian intellectuals need to put more effort into answering the challenges of an infant Iranian democracy. The beginning years, when norms are established, will be crucial for making it a functional democracy. There are lots of potential traps for Iranian democracy: bribery and corruption, divisions between parties along religious issues, an ethnocentric party system, and a national identity crisis. It needs vast preparations.

American Guy at July 23, 2003 11:26 PM [permalink]:

You are right. It is interesting to me that Iranians living outside of Iran seem to be able to understand this better than those at home.

How do you train Iranians for democracy, when talking about it can get them jailed?