Iran’s thwarted reformers set careful goals for coming vote

The New York Times reports: They clapped and cheered, and many shouted for the release of their political leaders under house arrest for the past five years. Some held up pictures of a popular former president, Mohammad Khatami. Pictures of his hands, to be exact, because displaying his portrait is illegal.

The young supporters of Iran’s reformist movement gathered behind the safe walls of a sports hall last week to campaign for elections on Friday for Parliament and an influential clerical council. Their longstanding demand has been tangible change, but the forced absence of most of their political leaders illustrated how far they were from their goal of a new and modern Iran.

A decade of relentless pressure from the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards and clerical councils dominated by hard-liners has confined Iran’s reformists. The reformists were a force during the presidential contest of 2009, but the movement was decapitated after its political leaders voiced support for the millions of people who took to the streets to challenge the fairness of the vote. Reformist parties were closed down, and hundreds of activists, politicians and journalists were given long jail sentences.

The election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 raised the hopes of the reform movement, and Iran negotiated a nuclear deal with the West and rejoined the world economy. But internally, virtually nothing changed. The political space remained constrained, and the hope that reformers would re-emerge as a guiding force has not come to fruition. [Continue reading…]

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