Sunday, May 22, 2005

What's old is new

Or déjà vu - except that this isn't just thinking you've seen this before; you have.
Iran's hard-line Guardian Council on Sunday rejected all reformists who registered to run in presidential elections, approving only six out of the 1,010 hopefuls, state television reported. ...

The Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that supervises the elections, is controlled by hard-liners loyal to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.
Last year, in an effort to which I gave a fair amount of attention, reformists tried to force the Guardian Council to reverse its decision to ban over 2,000 of them from running for the Majlis, the Iranian parliament. Ultimately, the Guardian Council backed off ever so slightly, just enough to approve a relative handful of little-known, underfunded reformers as candidates - with the inevitable (and intended) result that radical hard-liners won most of the seats in an election that featured an embarrassingly low turnout in the wake of reformers' call for a boycott.

Now the reactionaries want to insure control of the presidency as well, following the end of the term of reformist Mohammad Khatami, who is barred by law from seeking a third term. Of the six candidates approved, four are regarded as Khamenei loyalists and one is a hard-liner-turned-reformer-turned-Khamenei-supporter who apparently can thus be trusted to go with whoever seems to have the upper hand. The last, and by some accounts leading, candidate is Iran's Ahmed Chalabi: Hashemi Rafsanjani, a wily politician who has vacillated between supporting the hard-liners and seeking accommodation with the US and Europe and whose political obituary has several times proved to have been premature.

Reformers may see him as the best of a bad lot, although the idea of them mustering much enthusiasm on his behalf seems unlikely. They'll probably feel like Nader voters supporting Kerry - except, frankly and as much as we like to bemoan our current condition, with higher stakes.

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