With the stepping down of Seyed Mohammad Khatami as a presidential hopeful in the upcoming presidential election in favor of the other two candidates affiliated with the reformists, and the official announcement of Abdollah Nouri’s non-candidacy, a serious question is now posed: what is the strategy of those seeking change in the upcoming presidential election and future politics of Iran?
The seekers of change define reforms in terms of “structural reforms” and strengthening civil society and social movements. They do not regard their presence on the political scene from the point of view of “achieving” and “preserving” positions of power; rather, they regard their presence in the power structure as a catalyzer to intensify and speed up political, economic and social change. Now, they are facing a serious question about their short-term tactic with respect to the upcoming presidential election.
It must be accepted that the main candidate supporting “structural change” at present was Abdollah Nouri, followed by Seyyed Mohammad Khatami. Unfortunately, both men’s candidacy has been ruled out.
During the past two weeks, all efforts by a faction within the reformist movement to bring Abdollah Nouri into the scene following Khatami’s resignation from candidacy failed. During meetings held to discuss this matter, not only were factions close to the main reformist parties opposed to the addition of another candidate, but also supporters of structural reforms were of the belief that participating in the election at this juncture and under these conditions is not to the benefit of reformists and seekers of change. Interestingly, a portion of those seeking change, who initially supported and encouraged Abdollah Nouri’s candidacy, in the end argued that now is too late and impossible to set the stage for Nouri’s arrival following Mir Hossein Mousavi’s late and surprising entry into the race. In the end, it was concluded that politics is not just about elections. Rather, one must have longer-term plans, and use the upcoming election to strengthen institutions defending democracy and human rights and mobilize the defenders of structural reforms.
On the other hand, efforts to increase participation in the election, or to increase the chances of Mousavi or Karoubi for victory, are not confined to official endorsements of this or that official or individual of a candidate seeking change. Now that the stage has been set for the creation of popular task forces, such as the “Vote Protection Task Force,” further efforts can be made to reduce voting violations, critique government policies and aid the remaining reformist candidates – without having to expect all individuals to support either one of the two remaining candidates, Mousavi and Karoubi.
One significant achievement of the Khatami era was the recognition of the plurality of thought and views as well as tolerance and diversity. Why must one allow short-term tactics that may or may not be successful – such as which candidate’s campaign to support - to influence more fundamental and long-term strategies?
Is it not the case that those who regarded their strategy and tactics as the most successful and the best, and who did not listen to the most minor criticisms, were incapable of victory in several of the most recent elections, including the eighth Majlis elections? What guarantee is there that the strategies and tactics promoted by such people would not result in renewed failure? Rather, it is much better for the reformists and seekers of change, and even more moderate factions within the Principalist camp, to retain their independence of thought and action in a calm environment, away from the pressure of those who interpret politics simply as participating the election, in order to devise and implement their strategies and tactics at the appropriate time.
What has brought the present world closer to freedom, democracy, progress and development is this very respect for the vote and action of others. Is it wise or reasonable for us Iranians to go a separate way and utilize a method unlike that experienced by others in the world?