Interior Ministry figures on Saturday showed conservatives had won at least 55 of the first 106 seats declared, out of 289 contested on Friday, an analyst at the Parliamentary Research Centre said.
The parliament is not powerful at all. The Guardian Council of mullahs routinely rejects legislation passed by the parliament. In spite of the lack of power in the Parliament the mullahs rejected most reformist candiates for the 2004 parliamentary elections in order to ensure a more compliant parliament would be elected.
The Guardian Council, whose 12 members are all appointed directly or indirectly by Khamenei, disqualified more than 2,000 mainly reformist aspirants. A further 1,179 contenders withdrew.
The candidate ban by the Guardian Council left fewer than 250 veteran reformers among nearly 4,500 candidates and provoked one of Iran's most serious political crises in decades.
With the votes tallied from more than half of Iran's 207 districts, the turnout was 43.29 per cent, said Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. If the trend holds, it would be a noticeable drop from the 67.2 per cent in the last parliament elections in 2000.
However, it has been confirmed that participation in the capital Tehran was just 28 per cent, which could raise questions about the future Parliament's legitimacy.
Nationwide turnout appears to be headed to around the 50 per cent mark.
Thus the Europeans face a stark choice. They can decide to - holding their noses - continue dealing with the Iranian regime because they need its cooperation on a number of issues, notably nuclear non-proliferation, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Or they can orchestrate a set of new diplomatic, economic, and even military pressures on the regime as a means of encouraging the emergence of a genuinely democratic internal opposition.The Bush administration, for its part, needs to develop a coherent analysis of the Iranian situation. It must decide whether or not Iran is, in the words of the State Department's number-two, Richard Armitage, a "sort of democracy" or a despotic regime using religion and violence to remain in power.
Has Taheri just reached this conclusion? This has been obvious for years. The United States can either overthrow the Iranian government by force or try to organize a bigger sanctions regime against Iran in order to try to get the Mullahs to stop developing nukes and supporting terrorists. So far the Bush Adminisration has not shown that it has the stomach for such an undertaking and the European leaders have clung to the belief that diplomacy alone can bring the Iranian government to acceptable terms.
Writing from Tehran David Hirst describes this election as the final stage of a plan by the ruling mullahs to block democratic reformers. (same article here)
Today’s elections, followed by next year’s presidential contest, are the culmination of the conservatives’ strategy to regain their ascendancy over the “popular” as well as the “sacred” sources of sovereignty in Iran. The reformists call it a “white coup d’etat.” This is hardly an exaggeration for what the turbaned sages of the Council of Guardians did in disqualifying 2,500 reformist candidates, including 80 serving deputies, who were judged insufficiently “Islamic” and told that they would be waging “war on God” if they resisted their fate.
Alas, these elections did not raise question marks with respect to their results as much as they raised doubts about previous voting. What did the previous elections mean? What did their slogan, "reform" - should it happen - mean? Was it a lie sold to the Iranians, and marketed to the outside, which desired to believe it as a form of help to Khatami? What does this reform mean if the "pre-reform" practices remain, and even increased their pressures on freedom, silencing the press, suppressing the opponents and the elected people's representatives? One should admit a virtue for these non-elections: they removed the mist, dust, and makeup from the regime's real face. This means that it stayed as it is despite Khatami's charisma, his lenient rhetoric, his adorable smile, honest character and pure intentions. One should also admit that the Guardians Council does not commit mistakes in correcting the situation: the regime in Iran is not democratic, and its elections are nothing more than decorations.
According to diplomats familiar with investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency, inspectors have found designs and parts for a G2 uranium enrichment centrifuge - a more advanced version of the G1 system previously declared by Iran.
Some reports said the components were found on an Iranian air force base. If this is confirmed, it would create a possible link between Iran's nuclear programme and the military, despite claims that nuclear facilities are entirely civilian and designed to generate electricity.
Libya's cooperation in revealing what it was able to buy on the nuclear blackmarket has been very valuable for being able to guess what Iran might have. The fear is that Iran may have been able to buy a complete bomb design.
"The inspectors have been matching up everything Libya got with what we know Iran to have," one of the diplomats said. "The concern is, if the Iranians got everything so far, do they have a weapons design? That would be the biggie."
Powell said Iran and other rogue nations should learn from Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi , who realized after years of trying to pursue weapons of mass destruction that it was not making his people better off nor elevating his country's status internationally.
The EU expressed Friday its concern about the conditions under which parliamentary elections are being held in Iran, but underlined that the European bloc's policy to engage the Islamic Republic in dialogue has not changed, IRNA reported from Brussels.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is giving Iran until a March 8-10 meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to comply with promises made late last year. If Iran is found not in compliance, the United States could urge that the IAEA board refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions or other options.
Russia's nuclear-energy minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, confirmed yesterday that Moscow will override U.S. objections and ship nuclear fuel to a Russian-built reactor in Iran.
I am still betting on the mullahs turning Iran into the second Islamic nuclear power after Pakistan. The Bush Administration has not yet shown a willingness to either overthrow the Iranian government or do air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. The Bush Administration may yet try to get the Europeans to take the issue to the UN Security Council to seek sanctions. But it is not clear whether this path will be taken.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 February 21 03:24 PM MidEast Iran|