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Iran's Election Fiasco

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


In a day or two, it will be over; and we know the outcome of this fiasco, the election. Despite the sudden cold weather, other things enjoy more heat in Tehran. The question everywhere is what will be the result of the election and are people going to vote or not? You won't be surprised to learn that majority of people are not going to vote, but you may be surprised to learn that people are so sure about their decision. The apathy is unbelievable. Irrespective of age, social background, employment, and religious orientation, all say the same thing, why bother, it is among them.



I have stopped people in the streets at random, colleagues, family and taxi passengers and asked them if they will vote or not.  Only one said may be; the rest said No, and only two hesitated before they gave me their no replies. I know my method was not scientific but overall it seems that after a long time, majority of Iranians, at least urban Iranians, are united in one thing which is boycotting the election.


The new posters that have been set up seem to displease many.  This attitude, if prevails, even if that means that the next Majlis will be dominated by the ultra rightwing Islamic traditionalists, will bring about something more fundamental, and that is the question of the legitimacy of the system.  People like Ebrahim Yazdi and Taha Hashemi now say that, unless more than 50% of the population goes out to vote the system will have a terrible legitimacy crisis. And it won't matter how many votes are pulled out of the ballet boxes; everybody will know.  Some optimists say that we may follow the path of Georgia and, dare one hope, go for a velvet revolution in order to bring the change that is needed, which no one is sure what it is exactly, I would like to add. The questions as I have stated in the past is who or what is the real alternative. It seems that at best; we shall have the disqualified present Majlis candidates, the ultra reformist gang, and people like Reza Khatami, Ebrahim Navabi, Ali Tajernia, Elahe Koulie, Maysam Saeedi, Ali Akbar Khoeini or Fatemh Haghighatjou.


The questions that come to mind are: Would this change-over take place possibly without chaos, or even bloodshed?   Will the fundamental  traditionalists wizen up and embraces the forces necessary for a modern society and go back to their traditions without being fundamentalists and stay as a political force within a democratic society? Can we hope for a society where social justice is at the forefront of its goals, and where people can choose their candidates without dictation from above? Or will the Right opt for the Chinese Formula, after Tiananmen Square fiasco, as my friend Hossein said, and bring about economic progress and social freedom without political freedom? Will Iranians be happy with this and if so,  what will the leftover reformist gang do? Will they become closer to the student movements, more radical and let go of the strains that have held them back up to now and start revealing things and causing trouble and embarrassment?  Or they would do it anyway. Things like what one of them let out that:


the Right had set up a Crisis Unit  for four years now and it is operated by  the likes of Mr. Naghdi, Mr. Zolghadar and of-course Mr. Larijani  with a HQ at the right place. Its main purpose has been to overcome and combat the Reformists movement, and even to keep an eye on Mr. Khatami.


I am not sure, if the Chinese formula will be enough here. Despite all expectations, somehow people feel that they have been deprived of so much and for so long and they have fooled themselves or been fooled that they want it all. Time will surely reveal what price the same people are prepared to pay for this. However, the followings have taken my notice in recent weeks:


The fact that Guardian Council stood up to Majlis and even to the leader was extremely significant. Yet people, the majority, think nothing of this and find it all rather boring as they have stopped caring about the result of this game! Historically Iranians have always found themselves dissociated from their governments, and this is no exception it seems.


We are told that our constitution is good, but its interpretation is faulty. I hear that those who interpret it do not have good  faith and do it without love and care for the nation. It make one think that Iranians have a great problem to rise above personal and group yield and profits for higher things including the good of their country, even if the stakes are so high and the time so sensitive. What a great pity as this way we shall all lose.


I am told that Mr. Khatami isn't a change maker, and that he has always been a trend maker. He has been racing against time, and now he has managed to put most of the forces right.  Personally I disagree and differ with this. Some even call Khatami another Mosadegh, because he has disregarded sanctity of Power! Has he really, I ask my friends. He has always, at the end of the day acted, in favor of the establishment and not always in favor of the nations.  When friends say that he has tried to avoid bloodshed, I wonder if he has truly succeeded?  When I see such high degree of apathy specially among young people, when I see unbearable sense of alienation around me, when I see such unbelievable economical disparity and the gap that is widening ever more so everyday in different directions and dimensions, and when I hear young people tell me that there is nothing that they can do that is important to fight for and that there is no future so why bother, I have to ask myself has Mr. Khatami really succeeded or has he just managed to postpone the terrible scenario at best? And I wonder how many ways you can destroy a person, a group and a nation, and do people only die when their blood is shed?  I just hope and pray that I am wrong and my friends are right.


No matter who wins and what happens on the political front, the fact remains that we need to create about 800,000 new jobs every year. I truly wonder how and who can do this? Our best hope is that we attract foreign investments because of our Middle East market potentials. We have good natural resources, a young and semi to well educated work force and hopefully we will get lucky. But would this happen without first and foremost true political stability, the prerequisite of foreign investment; and how will this stability come about? I see the Chinese formula again and I shiver with a cold chill. Have we come all this way to get where we were quarter of a century ago?


At the end of the day it is the question of power, which acts through economics, and games that are played in the international arena, which sooner or later brings about the path that we shall witness. One can only hope that we have a big say in it after all and that this will be peaceful and positive in the end.


... Payvand News - 2/19/04 ... --

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