OpinionIran in the World PressIran's Sham Democracy

Iran’s Sham Democracy

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New York Times – Editorial: Today’s presidential election in Iran is an affront to true democracy, just as the past record of the front-running contender, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is an affront to true moderation. As President 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. New York Times

Editorial

Today’s presidential election in Iran is an affront to true democracy, just as the past record of the front-running contender, Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is an affront to true moderation. As President 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 demonstrated by the frustrating eight-year tenure of the departing incumbent, Mohammad Khatami.

As for Mr. 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 Mr. Rafsanjani now claims 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 have tempted millions to stay home, so as not to legitimize this sham exercise. They should steel themselves and vote anyway. Boycotting the election would benefit only the most antidemocratic forces on the clerical right.

For all of its multiple flaws, this election is the best tool available to the Iranian people to indicate which way they want their troubled country to head over the next four years. Its outcome will affect how Iran is run and how it deals with the world. Particularly important is the nuclear weapons issue, now even more critical in light of the latest disclosure that Tehran has been experimenting not just with enriched uranium but also with an alternative nuclear bomb fuel, plutonium.

Some European leaders have been quietly rooting for Mr. Rafsanjani, who is close to the top ayatollahs, in the hope that he would be most able to reach an acceptable nuclear deal and then sell it to the clerical establishment. There is little in his record to justify such hopes. The world would be better off if Western leaders used their little influence to press for more authentic democracy in Iran.

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