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.