After a long power struggle between the hardliners and the fraction known as reformists in Iranian politics, it seems like things are becoming more critical everyday as we approach the upcoming elections in Iran. 124 of the reformist MPs have already submitted their formal resignations, and are practically calling for boycott of the upcoming elections. On the other hand, the interior ministry has announced that it will not organize and hold the undemocratic elections, the threat shared by many of the governors from all over the country.
First, the unelected Guardian Council (the GC) who has the authority to accept or reject the candidate credentials, rejected thousands of candidates including most of current reformist MPs. As the resistance to these disqualifications grew, the GC was forced to reconsider many of the cases it had disqualified. Every day, more and more previously rejected candidates were qualified for the elections. However, many of the current reformist MPs still are disqualified by the GC.
Although, it seems like this time the reformists are demanding more than they ever dared to, there still is not much sign of popular support from the people who gave the reformist landslide victories in previous elections. Perhaps the reason for this is the fact that the reformist MPs who had wide-spread support among the populous, never seriously challenged the unti-democratic and un-elected authorities of the establishment. They never questioned the ultimate power of Khamaneie, the supreme leader. They passed some progressive laws, which were rejected by the GC by the practical backing of Khamaneie. Even during the last student uprisings, these MPs who once had tremendous support amongst the students, did not do enough to respond to the demands of the students.
On the other hand, the role of president khatami has always been questionable. During the student uprisings, Khatami even condemned them and took the side of the hardliners and Khamaneie. President khatami, who himself was elected from only 4 presidential candidates who were qualified by the GC, has always played the role of safety valve for the regime. He has always shown that in critical times, he takes the side of his beloved Islamic Republic and its supreme leader Khamaneie. He has never acted as a strong leader who would firmly stand up to the hardliners and would demand that peoples' rights be respected. This is despite the fact that he had complete support of the public, but no, he always wanted to save the regime.
Reformist MPs however, have always been more firm than the president although not significantly. But, it appears that this time, the MPs are more courageous in their demands and are questioning more fundamental pillars of the regime. They are directly going against the GC and occasionally the leader. Despite this, they are still not managing to convince people that perhaps this time, things are a bit different and they need peoples' support more than ever. People simply do not trust them anymore and that is why they have chosen to sit and watch what happens.
During the last municipal elections which took place a few months ago, the reformist candidates were badly defeated by the hardliners. This wasn't of course due to hardliners popular support, but it was due to the reformists' lack of popular support. In those elections, only less than 20% of the people participated. But the fact of the matter was that the supporters of the hardliners who are somehow the recipients of many government sponsored assistance programs, are under very organized authorities and are always available in the times of pro-hardliner staged demonstrations and the elections in favour of the hardliners.
In normal conditions, I would doubt that people would act differently in the upcoming elections, and perhaps it would be very possible that the reformers would be defeated by the hardliners for the same reason as in the municipal elections. But now, that things have gone towards a different direction, the question is what should be done now? Should the people and students ignore the pleas from the MPs for support? Should they leave them alone? And will they?
I previously expressed my confusion about the issue and my not-so-clear position regarding the elections in Iran in this post
. The confusion is still there and I can't be sure as what is right and what isn't. After all, is this another game by the components af the regime to bring people in and pretend that people should not abandon the regime on its entirety? May be it is. And may be it isn't. There are signs that this can be more serious than thought. As I mentioned before, now many of the MPs are talking about referendum on some of the pillars of the regime. Some of the MPs are indicating that their demands are not negotiable. They are completely undermining the authority of the GC and subsequently the authority of the Khamaneie who always backs the GC. They are practically asking the GC to admit it has been wrong and are demanding apology from the GC. Perhaps they should be given another chance. They might use it appropriately, otherwise, what has been lost? Perhaps not much. After all, nothing was going to happen in near future anyway. But by supporting the reformists and their heating struggle, people can be drawn into the politics for one more time and that by itself might have a positive result in long run, as peoples' demands will always be more than what the regime and perhaps even the reformist camp are capable of giving them. In that case, more serious reformers might evolve to the real defenders of the peoples' rights and the weaker ones might be filtered out. After reading different opinions about this whole issues on different blogs, the following which is an excerpts of a comment that I read, inspired me towards believing that perhaps it is wise to give the reformists another chance as I am beginning to think the commentator here has some valuable points. :
"You keep repeating this mantra that the reformists are the same as the conservatives. They are not. They have substantial differences from their conservatives counterparts. For example, the current reformist parliament passed several progressive laws including increasing of the age of marriage for girls from 9 to 13, banning torture, joining to convention of women right, limiting what can be considered political crime, ... Most of these were not accepted by the Guardian Council, which shows a significant difference between the two."
"..It is wrong to encourage people to sit and watch just because reformists are not exactly what we want. Once people come in and get actively involved, I believe even the reformists can not limit the demands of people. Reformists should but supported but with clearly stating that the support is for actual fundamental change. For now, people should push for removal of the Guardian Council, or at least limiting its rule."
Some signs of support are emerging as there are increasing number of students who were previously disappointed about the reformists, are showing some sort of solidarity with the reformists and are encouraging them not to give up and continue pressing for their demands. I am increasingly developing the belief that this is a positive sign and a welcome news, especially after the recent threat by the hardliners that any act including the mass resignations which result in interruption of the upcoming elections, can be considered an act against the security of the country and those responsible will be severly prosecuted. However, parhaps this is the best oportunity for the reformists to show how serious they are. They might begin to rise as succeful defenders of peoples' rights, but meanwhile they can lose even the little credibility that they have left in the public opinion.