Today is the second and final round of the 9th Presidential Elections of the Islamic Republic in Iran. No matter what the result, the people already know two things.
First, their votes are unlikely to be counted correctly in the official results. This is based on the statement of the Minister of State, who is responsible for the elections. He said that fraud in the second round is likely to exceed fraud in the first round, and warned of massive intervention by the plainclothes armed forces.
Second, it does not really matter who is elected, because he can only execute the wishes of the unelected Supreme Leader: The Islamic Republic is a theocracy whose constitution specifically denies sovereignty to the people and leaves ultimate legislative authority in the hands a Guardian Council dominated by the appointees of the Supreme Leader. As the representative of god on earth the Supreme leader embodies sovereignty and is the head of the armed forces, in control of electronic media, personal recipient of taxes on oil and other incomes, and the repository of sundry other powers.
Eight years ago many Iranians voted for the present President to reform the anachronous theocracy. In two subsequent elections they gave his allies control of the Islamic Parliament and regional governments. With the Parliament back in the control of hardliners, and a new President who is unlikely to get the trust or percentage of vote of Mr. Khatami, what could possibly be the basis of hope that the theocracy could be reformed? And if not, what is the point of votes even if they were counted correctly?
The answer of those who are promoting former President and the Present head of the Expediency Council, Mr. Rafsanjani, is that if people do not elect him they will end up with a religious fascist who will stamp on liberty at home and inflame international tensions through more support for terrorism abroad.
At least pro-Rafsanjani Iranians frequently have the modesty to admit what they advocate is choosing what is bad, over what is worse. Some foreign media, on the other hand, have acted as campaign posters for Rafsanjani, portraying him as the panacea for all that is wrong with Iran, from isolation and terrorism to the nuclear question.
What is clear is that Mr. Rafsanjani needs to convince the Supreme leader that he is the man who can avert the wrath of the West. But, what is not clear is why the man who advocated the actual use of a nuclear weapon as the solution to the “Israeli Problem,” is now the hope of a nuclear settlement with Iran? How a man convicted of conspiracy for murder by a German court, with an arrest warrant actionable in every country with an extradition treaty with Germany could be presented as a moderate?
But we must look beyond the next few months. The Islamic Republic of early revolutionary zeal, of the war years, of the dreams of reform or the vain hope to moderate theocratic absolutes are all gone.
Iran is ripe for change. With astounding suddenness there will emerge a new generation of Iranians who can reopen my homeland to the world and restore her greatness. With my deep affection for France and French civilization since early childhood, I hope to see that new generation of Iranians consider France as a credible and reliable friend.
But the foundation of the friendship must be laid now. French politicians could take the next step and introduce support for human rights and democracy in the core, and as an inseparable part of the negotiations with Iran. This will get the respect of Iranian people who see that you stand true to you founding ideals, but it will also get the respect of the Islamic Republic, because it shows the courage to bring in the big stick.
After nearly a year and a half of negotiations you know that Iranian plutocrats and institutions, who make their money on black markets and on unequal terms of trade, are not impressed by Western offers to let them into the WTO, where they would have to respect transparency and equal terms of trade. Nor are they worried about the stick of the UN Security Council, given that Russia’s nuclear establishment is solvent partially because of deals with her southern neighbor and China’s long term energy stability tributary on its large scale Iran investments.
Pressure on human rights and democracy, however, will get serious attention in Iran’s domestic security apparatus, because that is precisely where the system’s Achilles ’ heel is to be found.
Sooner than many may expect, my homeland will be free. For generations of Iranians to come, there will be inscribed in our collective memory those who, today, made the decision to help us, and those who turned their back to us.