Looks like its getting to be crunch time in Iran ...
First, the Council of Guardians, the clerical body whose authority supercedes that of the elected Parliament, has 3,500 candidates struck of the election lists for February. These include many current members of parliament, and almost all the radical reformers among them.
Parliamentarians are up in arms, but President Khatami asks them for patience while he negotiates with the Council and its superior, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Negotiations, however, break down at the point where the Council approves 1,100 candidates, after all, most of them lesser known people, while 2,400 candidates remain barred. Among them over 80 of the current members of parliament, in which the reformers now have 190 out of 290 seats.
Last Saturday, 117 of those reformist MPs handed in their resignation to the Parliament's Chair, Mehdi Karroubi, in a public display of protest.
What strikes me most is the language they used. These are not exact quotes, since I'm retranslating them from Dutch into English. But you've got to wonder at how brave they are:
Mehdi Karroubi himself, lambasted the Council of Guardians for "having no respect for democratic values and no confidence in the voice of the people", and ensued to openly question their piety: "Is one loyal to Islam if one prays every day, but tramples on the rights of the people?" He said even that the conservatives are aiming to establish "an Islam comparable to that of the Taliban".
The reformist Minister of Domestic Affairs said that there was now "no chance for free elections".
Mohammed Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the President said that "the Council of Guardians has killed off all possibilities. There is no hope for a solution. We will not take part in these fake elections. Even if all those who have been rejected are approved after all today, there will be no time for a campaign. Elections on February 20 are unlawful and under the current structures of power that means the end of the reform movement."
MRK's party, the Islamic Iranian Participation Front, today announced it will boycott the elections.
President Khatami declared that he is considering suspending the elections because they would be undemocratic, though he failed to appear at an emergency session of his cabinet because he suffered from "back ache".
What will happen next? Will it be the endgame, finally?
What works against the conservatives tho is that Iranians are YOUNG. If you look at the population structure, the (im)balance is amazing. Half the population is under 30 or something (would have to look up the specifics).
Forsure is that a large majority has no recollection of the "Islamic revolution". Thats why the "American Satan" trick isnt working much anymore.
Despite all of the upheaval in the higher political circles, I haven't seen any reports of mass displays of public disproval. No rioting, no huge demonstrations - nothing like what precipitated the revolution in 1979. Government control of the public remains intact. We have not hit "crunch time" just yet.
It could actually be that the "higher circles" of reformists have already long been overtaken by "the street". I mean, there's been many demonstrations and other "mass displays of public disproval", a few years ago. And people got beaten up for it, people got arrested. All that helped get all those reformists in power in the last elections, but what did they achieve?
In a way you cant blame them for their limited success because theyve been the victim of the legal structure, wherein their authority is superceded by the Council and Khatami's authority is superceded by Khamenei's. But I can imagine - and a spate of reports earlier this year noted the same - that the students and other impatient youngsters have already gotten disillusioned, and have already given up on those reformers.
I'm thinking again of the Soviet Union around, say, 1990, 1991 ... Perestrojka created much hope for a few years, but when the reformers under the wavering leadership of Gorbachev couldnt break through the stubborn hold of the conservatives, basically the reforms stagnated for a year or two - and people lost their faith in the reformers as well as the conservatives.
I mean, Gorbachev himself was down to 17% approval in the polls in early '91, and again and again he was reproached for either being too soft, or outright in league, with the orthodox communists. Could the same be happening to Khatami? He's been wavering the same way, expressing sympathy with the radicals but not daring to really defy or resist the conservatives - or who knows, perhaps simply still too steeped in loyalty to the system to be able to.
Gorbachevs failure to decisively deal with the conservatives in the end had him make way for the anti-politician, Yeltsin, who did away with the whole kaboozle in a way Gorbachev couldnt, didnt dare to or didnt want to - and was cheered on for it by `the street`. Apparently, ´the street´ already was much ´further´ than Gorbachevites were estimating. Could the same be true in Iran? Were Khatami´s reformers already locked in a rearguard fight? In that case - aside from all the risks - this new polarisation might actually allow them to ´catch up´.
Of course, as analogies go - Yeltsin only got his chance after the conservatives attempted their abortive coup d´etat ...
tho it might be interesting to note that one of the Iranian opposition politicians said that if the elections take place under these circumstances, it would be a coup d´etat.
So, basically, you think that the lack of mass displays of public disproval is not that important.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- In a sharp attack against the vast powers of ruling conservatives, Iran's president on Wednesday called the restriction of political freedoms a ``threat to the nation'' that could be hard to contain. [..]
A major boycott -- urged by a wide-ranging coalition from activists to academics -- would likely return control of parliament to conservatives. The backlash, however, could lead to huge political rifts and greater street demonstrations calling for ruling clerics to relinquish some of their virtually unlimited controls.
Iran's largest reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front, has joined the boycott camp. The party is led by the president's younger brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is deputy speaker of parliament and one of those barred from the election. [..]
In his speech, Khatami called for a ``third way'' avoiding Western-style models and a Taliban-like system led by ``those who don't consider the rights of the people ... and oppose freedom and democracy using religion.''
``Blocking the demands of the people and their right to vote ... causes frustration, especially among the young,'' he said.
The official election campaign period opens Thursday. Khatami has not made it clear whether he will support the boycott movement.
``For the prosperity of the nation, I don't know any path other than reforms,'' he said. ``Whether I succeed or not and whether obstacles keep preventing me from fulfilling my promises or not, I know no other path and won't choose a path other than reforms.''
nimh, I'm not so sure there's too much difference between three-quarters tyrany and sixty-six percent tyrany. At least, China's move towards more capitalism brings with it more "freedoms" in certain ways, and a chance to improve one's life.
IronLionZion wrote:So, basically, you think that the lack of mass displays of public disproval is not that important.
Well, its important - all I said is that it does not need to equate with a lack of popular fervour for change, it can simply equate with a lack of perceived opportunity worth one's while. I think, in order to participate in a revolution, or even a plain old demonstration, you need to not only be strongly disagreeing with whatever's the status quo, but also to see an actual opportunity to change it - or to prevent some acute change for the worse. Demonstrations born out of pure hopelessness are rather rare - lack of perspective just leads to resignation. There needs to be a "hook".
Now, these last few years in Iran, every "hook" has led to big demonstrations, students' rallies, sitins and so on, including violent clampdowns. Well, you've read the reports I'm sure. Recently, too, it was shown that any occasion could lead to spontaneous, radical protests - see, for example, when Ebadi got the nobel prize - do read this stunning report (I translated it for A2K).
So, if this will go the way it looks like it could go - the elections take place without the 1,000 candidates, Khatami is too weak to postpone them, the excluded reformist parliamentarians and their parties call for a boycott (as Khatami's brother already did), the conservatives win the elections on a record-low turnout and take their seats as if nothing happened ... I'd say, look for some major public displays of disapproval ...
But, as far as the analogy with the Soviet Union goes, you are definitely right on one score, as I'd already pointed out. Gorbachev's wavering and ambiguous course the last two years of his reign had people tune out of his brand of system reform altogether. The change was drastic - just two, three years before, the public had been glued to the screen to see the Soviet parliament's newly honest seatings - by '90/'91, they didnt expect much from it anymore at all. Instead, they turned to the ultimate outsider, Yeltsin, who was building his own base in the parliament of the Russian Federation (then just one of 15 constituent republics of the USSR), and was calling for the dissolution of the entire system.
But - here's the rub in the analogy - Yeltsin in the end did only get his chance after the conservatives did their abortive coup attempt. Otherwise, the status quo might still have lasted a few more years, with half-hearted clampdowns on fringe republics' uprisings - who knows. So there was an "external" trigger for him to get his opportunity to rally the people (the Muscovites, anyway) and tear down the CPSU and the SU itself. Will the abortive elections become the trigger in Iran? Who knows ... it could be, considering the recent track record on protest, depending on how effective its clamped down on ...
It would beg one more question : does Iran have an authoratative radical leader outside national leadership circles, a Yeltsin, say, to Khatami's Gorbachev role? Does anyone know whether Khatami's radical younger brother has that kind of appeal/authority? Or anyone else?