"Khatami is better than Noori, but it is the difference
between bad and worse"
On May 23, Iran's seventh presidential elections took place with
the usual arbitrary interference of the Council of Guardians regarding
the competence of the candidates. The 12 member Council filtered
out 234 candidates including 9 women, without providing any reason
orjustification for their decision. Ilic elections took place
in an environment where freedom of assembly, free press, an independent
legal system, and even active political parties were non-existent.
The big turn out, nonetheless, prevented the tampering with the
vote count. The great majority of voters, especially artists,
intellectuals, urban youths and women, participated to cast their
vote for the least evil. Before analyzing the results of this
election, we must refer to the constitution of the Islamic Republic
of Iran and pay close attention to the power and authority invested
in the role of the Supreme Theologian. Some experts and supporters
of the Islamic Republic of Iran often mention the periodic elections
for the Majlis (parliament) or the Presidential elections as an
indication of some degree of "democratic" rule in Iran.
But in essence, even a brief glance at the Islamic Republic's
constitution, demonstrates that the system is indeed totally undemocratic.
It is based on a theory of the rule of the Supreme Theologian
who has absolute power and veto over all decisions of the government
and the decrees of the Majlis.
It should be noted that according to article 115 of the constitution
all presidential candidates must be religiously and politically
devoted to the ideology of the Velayate Faghih (jurisprudence
of the Supreme Theologian). It must be noted that in regards to
candidates, the constitution refers emphatically to men (rejal)
and clearly it has no provisions for and in fact prevents women
from being candidates and thus from being elected as president.
Moreover, all members of the Majlis and candidates for presidency
must be screened for ideological purity by the Council of Guardians
- a twelve member body who are appointed by the Supreme leader
himself and are subservient to the latter. Islamic credentials
of every candidate, basically their eligibility to participate
in the election campaign, must be approved by the Council of Guardians.
The Islamic Republic's law does not believe in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. Arbitrary exercise of power by the Council of
Guardians and prevention of women to participate, sheds a clear
light on the fact that the election process (except for the counting
period of votes) is not one which could even remotely be labeled
Moreover, according to the Human Rights Watch, with the interference
of the Council of Guardian and preventing women and minorities
from becoming president, it could be said that elections are taking
place in a repressive and undemocratic atmosphere. In this presidential
contest, wherein 238 candidates had applied, the Council of Guardian
announced that it had vetoed all but four of the candidates, namely,
Hojjatol-Islam Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, Hojjatol Islam Mohammad
Khatami, Hojjatol-Islam Mohammad Reyshahri and Mr. Reza Zavarei.
The Council of Guardians hand picked those four candidates from
various factions within the system who compete for power with
differences in methods and tactics, and not strategy.
Although suspicions of vote tampering were high, competition among
different factions of the system created an atmosphere that was
apparently used by the people to send a clear message. The large
participation of youths and women and their tilt toward Mr. Khatami
as a lesser evil changed the equation. Although Ayatollah Khamanei
favored Mr. Nateq Noori and most observers believed that Noori
would be the next president, the stream of voters were so high
and difference in votes for candidates (70 percent went to Khatami)
were so big that the government could not rig the vote count as
it intended. Therefore, the result turned up in favor of Hojjatol-Islam
The people of Iran, in great numbers, elected a new president,
who in comparison with Nateq Noori, is a moderate. Now, whether
Mr. Khatami acts independent of the Supreme leader or will remain
subservient to him is uncertain and the future could only tell.
As we have always viewed the nationalist aspirations of our compatriots
with highest regard, here also our hope is that the people have
taken the right step and have not repeated the mistake of 1979.
In this regard, we know that previously, people and especially
the western press and governments, have been deceived by the false
Despite the fact that Hashemi Rafsanjani also enjoyed the initial
praise of western media as a moderate reformer, we have to wait
and see how Mr. Khatami would run the country where indeed all
power is concentrated in the hands of the Supreme leader and within
an undemocratic framework/constitution that has given absolute
power to the Supreme Religious Leader. Therefore, as long as the
supreme leader with his absolute power, sits atop the pyramid
of the Islamic Republic, things are not going to be facile for
Mr. Khatami insofar as running the affairs of the country and
in keeping his promises to the people who voted for him and gave
him the apparent mandate. It seems that this election has created
a new situation in Iran which will also have some impact on the
configuration of power because of the tactical differences among
the ruling cliques. There are going to be, from now on, seven
centers of power in the Iranian politics with tactical differences,
nonetheless all subordinate to the Supreme leader. If one or two
of those centers develop a centrifugal force, the balance will
change. Those centers are as _follows:
1- The Supreme Theologian Ayatollah Khamanei: The office he holds,
along with an assortment of various councils & foundations,
remains the absolute center of decision making. All indications
suggest that he is not going to change his radical position and
deviate from the tenets of Khomeinisin.
been allegedly suffering from prostate cancer, it is possible
that Rafsanjani is groomed to take the place of Khamenei as the
leader. In addition, there could be a conflict amongst the new
president and the Council of Guardian, and indeed the Supreme
leader, here the role of the president of CDE will be quite important.
Khamanei probably needs Rafsanjani's help to preserve the balance
3- The new president and his office: Since he has been elected
with over 20 million votes he has apparently a new mandate and
is expected to act in order to keep his promises and guarantee
the fundamental freedoms and a better economic life which he pledged
to bring about. He might face difficulties with hard-liners and
the Supreme leader. Here again the role of Rafsanjani as the president
of CDE is going to be important.
4- The Majlis (Parliament): That could have a new and to some
extent assertive role to play, due to the new political situation.
2- Hashemi Rafsanjani: Within two months he will be presiding
over the expanded Council for Discernment of Expediency (CDE).
One month before the election, Ayatollah Khamenei appointed Mr.
Rafsanjani as president of that council. The post has always been
filled by the president in the past. While the president appoints
the members of the government, the Majlis can block the decisions
of the president. Also if there are differences between Majlis
and the Council of Guardians (protector of the constitution and
the Islamic Republic), CDE will intervene as a mediator. With
expanded and increasing members of the Council and appointment
of Rafsanjani as its president, the CDE will act as a new Islamic
politburo of the current system. Since Ayatollah Khamenei has
5- The Arm Forces: They have been until now, under the control
of the Supreme leader and it will continue to remain so. However,
if Rafsanjani is appointed as the deputy to the supreme leader,
he will probably campaign to be the deputy to the commander in
chief of the Armed Forces too- in the like manner that he was
during the war.
6- The Bazaar: That has always been important in the Iranian politics
and their support of government or lack thereof, makes a difference.
7- Last but certainly not the least, the people of Iran, as the
most important emerging force: They are the real and potential
force and are gradually attempting to exercise their rights.
On May 23, they tried to prove to the ruling clerics that they
are the most important emerging social and political force, a
force that will have an immense impact on the future and destiny
of Iran and that they should be taken seriously. In this election,
the people, especially the youth and women, showed that they oppose
the system of the Supreme Theologian (Velayate-Faghih) and its
constitution rather than choosing another cleric as the president
They strongly indicated that they want change and oppose the repressive
system and its domestic and foreign policies. The people proved
that they are alive, watchful and decided to participate in shaping
the destiny of their country.
They showed that they voted for Mr. Khatami not because they like
him but because they are against the current repressive system.
They are against status quo and are longing for freedom. They
rightly believe that today, the public opinion is the center of
political gravity. Until the election, this public opinion was
absent and today it is present.
How the new president will deal with the new emerging forces and
handles the economy and/ or domestic and foreign policy, remains
to be seen. How Mr. Khatami deals with different religious dinosaurs,
how he will end Iran's isolation and improves its devastated economy,
how he terminates the support for radical terrorists groups like
Hezballah and deals with international communities, the manner
in which he intends to combat the rampant corruption, and finally
how he dismantles the different religious foundations which control
large segments of the economy remains to be seen.
No one can accurately predict what will happen if views and policies
of the newly elected president, conflict with those of the Supreme
Leader. Whether he can remain in power as
subservient to the leader or will meet the destiny of the former
president, Banisadr, is yet unknown. If he is an integral part
of the regime, which he indeed is, he will do no more than his
predecessor, namely, aid the prolongation of a shaky, despotic
and a corrupt system. However, the people have strongly indicated,
via their vote, that they indeed are rejecting Velayat-eFaghih
and will not permit the status quo and the dictatorship of the
clerics to persist. One thing is certain - the time has come for
the people to shape their destiny.
The Azadegan Foundation believes that 18 years of the arbitrary
rule of the clerics has ruined our country, damaging its social,
economical and political fiber. The mullahs have abolished the
rule of law and the fundamental rights of the people and have
destroyed the cultural foundation of Iran. We have always advocated
a secular democratic government for our country and the return
of the ruling clerics to the Mosques.
We do not believe Hojjatol-Islam Khatami, as an integral player
in the system of the Velayat-e Faghih, has enough power, will,
or even the desire to go the extra mile in opposing the system
and establishing democracy which is indeed alien to the mind and
nature of the ruling clerics. It is difficult to believe that
with the modus operandi of the current regime, he could put an
end to terrorism, human rights violations, the nuclear proliferation,
deal sensibly with the Middle East peace talks and terminate the
export of the revolution to the region.
Therefor we are neither optimistic, as most observers are, nor
pessimistic. The reality is that the clerics do not wish to relinquish
their dictatorial rule and until they are at the helm, hindering
the corning to power of a secular democratic government, there
is no hope for change and freedom for the Iranian people.