Tuesday, June 14, 2005

On the upcoming presidential elections in Iran

In today's New York Times, an interesting article on the presidential elections in Iran this coming Friday:

Iran's Giant Question Mark: To Vote or Not?


TEHRAN - With just days left in Iran's short presidential election campaign, the reformist camp finds itself facing a fork in the road: to vote or to boycott the ballot.

Iran's reform movement emerged full-blown after the surprise triumph of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. After he defeated the chosen candidate of Iran's mullahs by a wide margin, hopes soared among many Iranians that he could usher in greater political and social freedoms. But hard-line clerics retained control over the powerful police, judiciary and intelligence agencies, reining in demonstrations, shutting down outspoken newspapers and disqualifying reformist candidates for office.

To read full text of article, click here.

I have always thought that boycotting an election was a very counterproductive form of political activism, and that is why I very much respect and support the position of Dr. Mostafa Moin, the reformist candidate, who refused to heed other reformists' demands that he withdraws from the presidential race. I also always thought that a more liberal Iran, with genuine democracy, solid institutions and true constitutional checks and balances, can be of great positive influence on islamist movements on a global scale, and can help shape the islamist political discourse in the arab world. So let us hope that the Iranian elections of this coming Friday will bring to power the right person who can deal with the pressing social and economic issues facing iranian society and at the same time negociate a better share of power for the office of president of the Islamic Republic.

1 comment:

Jallal said...

Unfortunately, Rafsanjani looks to be the big favorite of these elections. Iran is still far from proposing a decent democracy system. But there is hope as you said, and it is well summarized by Mohammad Ali Abtahi’s statement "The Iranian people are on a train moving toward democracy that cannot be derailed. If the government pushes this train it will move faster, but it will keep moving no matter what." If this hope turns into reality, it would certainly inspire loads of Arab nations.

As far as the question of voting is concerned, I share your opinion that a boycott is not the solution. What I don’t understand, is why the alternative solution of blank voting is not raised at all (as far as the article can tell. If it is not possible, too bad!). I understand the position of boycott proponents. They don’t want to give credit to a system in which the clerics used all the means to undermine the reformists’ attempts to get to power. This can be avoided, however, by urging people not to boycott but rather to fill in blank votes. In such a scenario, the clerics would get a strong message that the population is greatly interested in politics but don’t agree with the current election system. Abstention has a different meaning. It may be interpreted as a mere lack of interest in politics.