"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 as democratic.
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
mere 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 "messiah".
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
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 with Khatami.
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
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
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