Iran’s Sham Democracy

The New York Times editorial board takes a strong stand on the Iranian election:

Iran’s sham democracy (NYT/IHT)

Friday’s presidential election in Iran was an affront to true democracy, just as the past record of Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, all along the leading candidate, is an affront to true moderation. As President George W. Bush rightly noted, the voting was effectively rigged in advance by the council of unelected clerics that decided who would and who wouldn’t be allowed to run. And this is for a presidency, remember, that has no power to do anything the unelected clerical establishment does not want done, as amply shown by the frustrating eight-year tenure of the departing incumbent, Mohammad Khatami.

As for Rafsanjani, his moderate reputation is plainly undeserved. His two previous presidential terms, from 1989 to 1997, were scarred by state-sponsored terrorism at home and abroad. Yet Rafsanjani claimed to stand as the sensible centrist alternative, between a right-wing former police chief and a reformist pediatrician whom the clerical council allowed to run at the behest of Iran’s real ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

These manipulations tempted millions to stay home, so as not to legitimize a sham exercise. We hope they steeled themselves and voted anyway. A boycott would benefit only the most anti-democratic forces on the clerical right.

Quite right on all counts. An Iranian “election” is not a true election and the type of “moderate” who is allowed to campaign for office, even a sham office, is not a true moderate.

The next paragraph is true only at the margins, though:

For all of its multiple flaws, this election was the best tool available to the Iranian people to indicate which way they want their troubled country to head over the next four years. It will affect how Iran is run and how it deals with the world.

It was the best tool available because, short of revolution, it’s the only tool. The extent to which is will impact Iranian public policy is impossible to say for sure but, if the past is any guide, it will be minimal at best.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ron Wright says:

    There is another alternative.

    The Iranian people will effect their own regime change. They will send the Mad Mullahs of Iran and their Islamofascist theocracy packing.

    All the Iranian people need to know is that this administration, the American people and the rest of the free world are in support of their struggle for FREEDOM!

    Unfortunately the MSM for various reasons is not giving much coverage to the ongoing massive demonstrations that have occurred in Iran over the last several months.

    More over the MSM is taking the bait hook, line, and sinker on the turnout in this election. In reality there was massive fraud and cooking of the numbers by the regime. Good PR ploy by the regime. A little more fact checking on the ground is in order – a few good investigative reporters on the ground instead of reporting from the posh hotels of Europe.

    The true foreign correspondents are the brave men and women bloggers of Iran who risk life and limb reporting the facts as they occur from their own neighborhoods.

    The Blogos now has the power to convey these messages to the free world and the Iranian people.

    Now’s the time for all Americans to either stand up for what is right or shut up and get off the stage and quit whinning about GITMO.

    A strategic window of opportunity is now opening to deliver a crushing if not fatal blow to the enemy in the GWOT with the fall of the Iranian Regime. The consequences of the Mad Mullahs going nuclear are unimaginable. This administration will not blink for one moment and will not allow this to occur. Our Euro Weenie “friends” can just shove it!

    The Iranian people will overthrow this regime if they know they have the support of the free world. This is the best solution as the Iranians are a very proud and nationalistic people. They consider themselves Persian and have no love for the Arabic fundamentalist minority that brought Islamofascisim to their country. Further there is now a large younger generation, “The Joyless Generation,” that there is more to life than what Islamofascism can deliver. This is a failed ideology just as Nazism, Communism, Facisim and other ideologies that have gone into the dustbin over history. The core issue is the free will of men and women.

    You need not wait for your Country to ask for aid and support. You can do this right from your keyboard by ensuring the free flow of news/info into, within, and from Iran. The Mullahs are actively filtering and blocking news sources. If we all play a part they can not block us all.

    Dr Zin and the SMCCDI can use everyone’s help NOW!

    Also see my previous comment at, In From the Cold

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