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2/26/04 - IRAN’S DEEPLY FLAWED ELECTIONS - 2004-02-26

When given half a chance, Iranians have voted overwhelmingly for candidates identified with reform. But for the February parliamentary elections, Iran’s unelected Council of Guardians disqualified more than two-thousand candidates, including many reform-minded incumbents. In response, Iranians by the millions boycotted the elections.

The European Union was quick to condemn the sham. In a joint statement, E-U foreign ministers said the Council of Guardians made “a genuine democratic choice by the Iranian people impossible.”

One of the incumbents disqualified by the Council of Guardians was Mohammad Reza Khatami, leader of the Islamic Participation Front and the candidate who received the most votes in the 2000 parliamentary elections. A physician, he took part in Iran’s 1979 revolution and was wounded in the war with Iraq in the 1980s. He is also the brother of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. But while President Khatami called on Iranians to vote on February 20th, Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami urged them to protest the sham elections by staying home.

“There were a series of ideals at the time of the revolution which were forgotten right away,” said Dr. Khatami. “We think the revolution should have put the country on the course toward democracy. That was the need, and we have to adopt modern methods to move that way.”

Many others would agree. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says “the pressure for democracy in Iran is going to continue”:

“We made clear our concerns about an election that was shaping up to be deeply flawed in the run-up to the elections, and it turned out that way. But we do continue to believe the Iranian people deserve a government that responds to their aspirations, and we believe that that desire on the part of the Iranian people will continue to be expressed in a variety of ways.”

One way and another, the Iranian people will continue to push for democracy.