As parliamentary elections take place in Iran today, Ardeshir Amir-Arjomand, adviser to opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, writes: With Iran’s democratic opposition sitting on the sidelines, the race has been left wide open to two authoritarian factions — one led by the fraudulently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and another by an equally unscrupulous conservative group. Their previous “marriage of convenience” has now dissolved, opening the floodgates to an orgy of mutual mud-slinging and a naked stampede for power.
There are no genuine ideological differences between these factions; what motivates them is a lust for power and control of the country’s oil wealth. And they are competing in a polemical race to describe how they would “stamp out” what, in official spin, is labeled as the “remnants of the sedition” — officialese for Iran’s popular Green protest movement, which was brutally attacked three years ago but has nevertheless survived.
The Green movement was born out of spontaneous mass protests that questioned the validity of a fraudulent vote count. Mr. Moussavi and Mr. Karroubi, while still free, kept emphasizing their commitment to free and fair elections, independence of legal institutions, fully accountable governance and a responsible foreign policy — a far cry from what has come to haunt the country in recent years.
We are painfully aware of the tremendous challenges that lie ahead for Iran in its peaceful resistance to a deeply authoritarian power structure bent on the use of sheer hypocrisy, fear, intimidation and brute force to hold on to power.
This, we realize, is the same challenge that has been with us Iranians for over a century: the peaceful transition to a democratic, pluralistic, developed and prosperous Iran.
Several crucial tasks lie ahead of us. First, our peaceful movement has to survive the ruling authoritarian apparatus, and to build and empower the political organizations needed for the future democratic era. More urgently, though, it has to safeguard the country’s territory, its people and its political independence against the increasing perils of external threats, international adventurism and internal strife. We must oppose warmongering and jingoism, whether from foreigners or our fellow countrymen.
It is disheartening that in the midst of rising military threats against the country, certain hotheaded elements and currents within the ruling coalition appear to welcome the prospect of a military confrontation as a blessing.