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Iranian "Democracy" By: Hassan Daioleslam
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The recent parody of presidential election in Zimbabwe has caused disgust and disappointment in the world.  Mugabe's fiasco has initiated the United Nations to intervene and condemn this sham.

If Mugabe had followed the Iranian regime's model of "democracy," his sham would have never been condemned by the UN; on the contrary, his regime could have been praised and respected.

The recipe is easy and simple. Instead of becoming a presidential candidate, Mugabe could seat himself as the life term Supreme Leader. He then has to install a Council of Guardians to choose a few suitable presidential candidates with a solid record of obedience. By doing so, there would be no risk that one of the candidates would take refuge in a foreign embassy.  As "democratic" elections take place every few years, the lucky winners of these presidential games could take turn in morphing into a moderate, reformist, pragmatist, radical, or realist. The democracy kit is not complete yet.  Mugabe could fill the parliaments with the same kind of friends (moderates, reformists …). At the end, the Supreme Leader could make it clear to everyone that even such friendly president and parliament would have no authority and if by accident or excess of confidence they overextend their responsibilities, the Council of Guardians has the power to intervene and guarantee the safety of the Republic.  This form of democracy is called Velayat-e-Faghih.

Once this democratic package is ready, Mugabe could turn to the Mullahs' lobby in Washington and, together with friendly Americans, he could sell the package as an example of good governance and citizens' respect, an indigenous democracy that is fit with all aspects of religion, theology, social, and cultural values.  A model that many nations could eventually follow.  If you think these comments are silly or exaggerated, let's have a look at some comments by the most respected Iran-experts:

“The (2000 parliamentary) election may also have marked the onset of recovery — a revolution’s third and final phase”.[2]

“Like the world around it, Iran is still undergoing a profound transformation… Gradually, the government of God is being forced to cede to secular statecraft -- and to empower Iranians. In the process, Iran has begun contributing to the spread of public empowerment around the world.”[3]

Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau: "There are many who find the Iranian electoral system imperfect, especially the vetting role of the Council of Guardians, but we should also recognize the elements of democracy which are present: choice among candidates, public debate over programs and positions, and the secret ballot. Americans should respect the results, whatever they are, and not rush to draw superficial conclusions". [1]

Suzanne Maloney (Brookings Institution): "Iran has been a functioning democracy - albeit very limited - since the revolution in 1979. There have been something along the lines of 21 national elections in 22 years, and they have taken place even at times of great tension." (Brookings Institution, June 11, 2001)

Graham Fuller:  "In reality, Iran has a freer and more outspoken democratic parliament and press than most of the Arab countries. It has more women in parliament than does the United States." (There were 11 women deputies in Iran in 1998) Middle East Policy Council, October 1998

Ray Takeyh (senior expert at CFR): "Iran's Islamic polity largely reflects fundamental features of democracy: free elections, separation of powers, freedom of assembly and a vibrant press." (MEPC October 2000)


1- Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau, Remarks to the American-Iranian Council-Iranian Trade Association. February 4, 2000, Washington DC

2- Wright, R., The Last Great Revolution. The Journal of The International Institute (http://www.umich.edu/~iinet/journal/vol8no1/Wright.htm).

3- Wright, R., Iran's New Revolution, in Foreign Affairs (http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20000101faessay10/robin-wright/iran-s-new-revolution.html). January/February 2000.

Hassan Daioleslam is an independent Iran analyst and writer. He is well published in Farsi and English. He has appeared as an expert guest on the Voice of America-TV as well as in other Persian media. Daioleslam has three decades of history of political activism and political scholarly analysis.

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