Reformists in Iran

What a difference a President makes. In 2001 and 2002 it looked like Iran could become an ally of the US, working with us to go after al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and then President Bush gave his famous Axis of Evil speech and any possibility was gone.

There was an election in Iran this weekend and we get:

Partial election results in Iran on Saturday point to major gains by reformists and moderates who favor expanding freedoms and engaging with the West, and who defended the recently implemented nuclear deal with world powers against opposition from hard-liners.

Friday’s election was the first since last summer’s agreement was finalized, lifting international economic sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. U.S. officials had hoped the deal would strengthen President Hassan Rouhani and other moderates, paving the way for greater cooperation on other regional issues.

Iran is far from perfect, in fact it’s pretty bad, but this is a welcome sign. It’s also a reminder that Iran is much more of a democracy than most of the countries in the region:

Nearly 55 million of Iran’s 80 million people were eligible to vote. Participation figures were not immediately available, but Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Saturday said turnout likely exceeded 60 percent based on the partial counting of the votes.

Iran is a theocracy and panels have final say on who can run for office, but even there there’s a bit of democracy:

Partial results from Tehran showed moderates also gaining ground in the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which will select the successor to 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top decision-maker since 1989.

The article also looks at what happened to the reformists the last time they had some power:

Reformists last rose to power with the 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, followed by 2000 parliamentary elections that brought a reformist majority for the first time. The movement pressed for an easing of Islamic social restrictions, wider freedom of expression and better relations with the West.

But their hold on power was broken in the next election in 2004, when reformist candidates were largely barred from running. Ahmadinejad’s victory in 2005 sealed the movement’s downfall. Reformists were virtually shut out of politics until Rouhani was elected in 2013.

Gee, do you think that President Bush’s speech including Iran in the Axis of Evil as Iran was cooperating with the US had anything to do with that?

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