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May 04, 2005

The Election Hype
Babak Seradjeh  [info|posts]

voting.jpg The presidential election in Iran is just around the corner, set for June 17, 2005. Naturally the event stirs a lot of excitement and there is a lot of talk about whom to vote for, and also a lot about whether to vote at all. The experience of the last eight years has produced different attitudes among those who voted President Khatami into office twice, hoping to make his reformist agenda into reality. That enthusiasm has since quenched due to the dithering of the so-called reform project. The last two rounds of elections (the 2004 parliamentary elections, and the 2003 city elections) saw a drastic drop in the turn-out and a reversal of the outcome, with conservatives winning both. Now some argue that, a revolutionary plan being ruled out for all sorts of reasons, the best and only way to continue with the reforms is to go back to the ballot boxes. But is that really the issue?

The real problem with the failing reform project has not been a dwindling public participation, but a muddy list if demands and a non-existence program to carry them through. If the situation is not remedied, it is irrelevant whether to vote or whom to vote for. Is it clear what the reformists, as a political denomination, want? Is it more social and political freedoms? If so, how are they going to be implemented? What would be the role of religion in deciding what freedoms to give? Or is it a change in the role of the Supreme Leader? Or the judiciary system? Or perhaps it is the creation of jobs? How about fixing the role of women in society? What are the priorities? Given the certain fierce opposition from the conservatives who now also control the Majlis (the equivalent of the parliament, officially: Islamic Consultative Assembly) to any such change, what are the strategies and tactics that are going to be used to push through with those demands?

I am not against voting, but I am not for it either. I don't think that's the issue. The issue is what to vote for. Without an intensive and relentless debate on these questions, it will be of no use whatsoever who will be elected to the office from the reformist camp—the old problems will surely show up again, and the hapless new president will be as resourceless and unprepared as the old one. It is not sensible to tone down the demands, as some suggest (one of the more recent attitudes, a sort of defense mechanism, arising after the disappointing decline of the Khatami vibe, not to get upset when the `high and tall' demands are not met by the elected president), but to make them loud and clear in the first place.

If it is not clear what we are voting for, it is more beneficial not to vote at all, at least to deprive the conservative spin-masters of a good source of propaganda.

Comments
An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 4, 2005 09:39 PM [permalink]:

I personally don't see any need for indepth debate regarding "elections": It is even more evident and essential than ever, including the past two "elections", to boycott it completely.
The real issue is the referndum for deciding the shape of the goverment in its totality. Any kind of participation in an "election" *within* the system amounts to siding against referndum and regime change and means siding with the mullahs. "refomr" , "moeen" etc , choosing bad and worse (ah I'll be thrwoing up now) is not even funny anymore.

The other side of the coming elections that has to be taken in to account is the effect of different outcomes in Washington.
The administrations policies towards Iran till now have been simply pathetic. There is great divide in Wshington and the appeasement side in State department and the CIA have unfortunately shown to be more influential than was thought regarding Iran. It is imperative to act to weaken the appeasment side and strengthen the resolve for regime change in Washington.

The only meaningful vote should be boycott and not participating.
These are very senstive times. We can't afford this particular brand of mistake anymore.

yaser at May 5, 2005 04:47 PM [permalink]:

In my opinion it is very clear what the goals of the reformists should be. How to implement the goals? I think no one really knows. Do you? It is not fair to ask the reformists what exactly they want to do if for instance Shoraaye Negahban veto all their bills. Let's say Majlis rejects most of the cabinet members of the president (Moeen!). What should (could) the president do? Ask the people to come to street?! Do you expect the reformists to have a good answer? Would you not vote because you can't find any answer for your questions? To me it is like not attending an exam because you know it is going to be the tough one. But would not attending make you pass it? I wonder!

Babak S at May 5, 2005 06:21 PM [permalink]:

Yaser:


It is not fair to ask the reformists what exactly they want to do if for instance Shoraaye Negahban veto all their bills. Let's say Majlis rejects most of the cabinet members of the president (Moeen!). What should (could) the president do? Ask the people to come to street?!


I think it is fair to ask them what they will do, since that is a real possibility. Now, your hopthetical situation with Shorâ ye Negahbân (The Council of Guardians) is most likely an exaggeration, but what's been accumulatively happening in the past eight years is nothing short of this rather unlikely example of yours. It is exactly their undecisiveness when similar things happened (shut-down of the newspapers, assassination of their policy-maker, disqualification of their candidates, etc.) that has plagued the progress and dashed the hopes.

And what is so strange about asking people to come to streets? In most of the past occasions, this could have been done in a peaceful manner. It may still be. A showdown of power is sometimes necessary if you want to win the contest. The former Soviet republics set an example.


To me it is like not attending an exam because you know it is going to be the tough one. But would not attending make you pass it? I wonder!

Look, it is not the voters who are going to write the exam, it's the elected cabinet. To me, it is like asking someone not to write an exam without knowing what to do, at least in principle, if the exam problems are tough. Now, would that person pass just by attending?

Rancher at May 8, 2005 04:00 PM [permalink]:

Unless Iranian dissidents can muster the millions of demonstrators the presaged the Velvet, Orange, and Cedar Revolution I don’t see how reforms have any chance. Only by dissolving the Guardians Council
Can Iranians gain any say in how their government is run. Voting only legitimizes the current regime, allowing idiots like Juan Cole to say Iranian elections were more democratic than the Iraqi ones.

babko!I miss talking to you at May 11, 2005 07:51 PM [permalink]:

I think it's as important as Babak says for the reformists to know and make it very clear to everybody what their ultimate goals are. It will be great if they also have an index that shows us if they are getting closer to the goal or not. I think they more or less know the ballpark of their goals, but it's important to make it even more clear.

But I don't think that it makes no difference whether people vote or not or who gets elected. It doesn't checkmate the opponent but it puts a pawn on a better point on the board. After all reformists like to be encoureged by people and be paid just like conservatives and janitors and doctors and physicists. Why should we deprive them from this not so petty job they are seeking (the president's job, the ministers' and other jobs a lot of people are willing to risk their lives to get them)

I think it's extremely important for people to vote a reformist into the office. As important as a good pawn move.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at May 22, 2005 04:35 PM [permalink]:

As many of you know already, the great Iranian intellectual, Akbar Ganji, has begun a hunger strike for his illegal imprisonment and continuos mistreatments. He is one of the greatest men we have in Iran and I think those who are serious in their demand for freedom and an opne society should show all their solidarity with and support for him today.

Just reading his manifesto should be enough to see this:

Akbar Ganji's Manifesto

May we all learn from his intelligence and courage.