Friday, May 27, 2011

The Khatami Initiative

Rapid developments in Iran and the Middle East have attracted the attention of analysts and political observers once again. In Iran, signs of the internal drift between the Ahmadinejad group and the Supreme Leader have emerged after Ahmadinejad refrained from appearing in Cabinet sessions for more than a week. His Chief of Staff is the main culprit and he is under attack for using unconventional means, such as supernatural powers to exert his power over the affairs of the country and to "deal" with his rivals. In addition, Ahmadinejad is condemned by Principalists for not obeying the Supreme Leader, who he claimed to follow with all his heart during his first round of Presidency. This well orchestrated bond did not last long during the second round and now things are falling apart with the Parliament as well. The leaders of the pro-Leader factions in the Parliament have been seriously criticizing Ahmadinejad for his illegal measures. Now, they have adopted a bill to investigate billions of Tomans distributed among 9 million citizens prior to the disputed Presidential elections in 2009. None of the three rivals of Ahmadinejad accepted the results of that election on grounds that both prior to the elections and during the balloting and vote counting  serious illegal and irregular measures had been reported.    However, all criticism and opposition was severely suppressed during a two year campaign that still continues. Now, it is becoming more and more evident that the Reformists were very correct in their predictions and concerns. There is now also much news about possible embezzlement and money laundering by what their conservative rivals call the "devious group" within the government.

Those who love Iran and still believe in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic hope that a return to the law and justice, freedom of political prisoners and a free political atmosphere for Parties, activists and civil society would pave way for national reconciliation and a return of stability and prosperity to the country. Former President Khatami spoke on those notes recently, stressing once again on those necessary preconditions, he stated that we might have to forgive each other in order to move forward. Some have criticized his move as a step back in retreat, while others have welcomed the move as an initiative that could bring national unity and confidence among all social groups including particularly the educated and intellectual elite of the country who have become more and more disgruntled with the awkward measures and manners of the Ahmadinejad group. Khatami's initiative has broken the deadlock on many sides and is the center of an on going debate among both Reformist and Principalist groups.
The reformists are hopeful that as the light emerges from behind the dark clouds, all political dominations would reconcile to protect the future of the nation, including its natural and human resources.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Councils Reflect Democratic Values

We celebrated the anniversary of the creation of local Councils a few weeks ago. The major debates reflected in the media were focused on the current status of Councils throughout the country.  Even though the Constitution clearly gives full authority and status to councils elected by the people in governing the affairs of the Municipality and other local affairs, there have been many obstacles in this way.  President Khatami held the first elections after the Revolution in 1998 despite heavy criticism and  the uncertainty concerning the competence of the councils and their inexperience. Since then more than 30,000 urban and rural councils have performed their legal duties for three rounds. During these years they have gained more experience and have sought expertise in different areas of urban management. This has changed the face of many cities and villages in Iran and has provided a unique opportunity for people to take charge of their affairs in a democratic manner. Council elections are considered to be the most liberal elections in Iran due to the light vetting processes involved as compared to other elections.
During these years those who have  opposed the democratization of Iran and who essentially believe in the Islamic State as opposed to the Islamic Republic, have taken numerous measures to weaken and limit the role of the councils. The ninth and tenth governments in particular have displayed their animosity in face of urban councils and particularly Tehran. It is a common rumor that Ahmadinejad considers Ghalibaf the mayor of Tehran as his political rival and therefore seeks to weaken his image among the citizens of the Capital.
In short Councils in Iran are an important gauge for the democratic processes today. Their strength and success will reflect the  capability   of  the people in running their affairs and taking the matters of the country into their hands.