Khatami: Referendum a Solution to Crisis
20 Jul 2009 18:08
By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 20 July 2009
In an unprecedented move, former president and reformist icon Mohammad Khatami suggested holding a referendum on the result of June's presidential election and to determine whether people are satisfied with Iran's present state of affairs.
In a meeting with the families of several imprisoned reformist leaders, Khatami, the Secretary-General of the Association of Combatant Clerics (ACC), known in Iran as the Rouhaniyoun, supported the proposal made by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during Friday's prayer sermon. Rafsanjani's sermon attracted hundreds of thousands of participants and was widely considered to be the largest Friday Prayer ceremony held since the 1979 Revolution.
After expressing his support for Rafsanjani and his proposal, Khatami said,
The suggestions by Mr. Hashemi [Rafsanjani] are the minimum that can create a better environment, and restore the [public's] trust [in the political system]. I would like to add a point here and declare explicitly that, the only way out of the present crisis is relying on people's vote and holding a referendum.
Khatami suggested that the referendum must be held by a neutral organ, such as the Expediency Council [a Constitutional body that arbitrates over disputes between the Majles (parliament) and the Guardian Council, which is headed by Rafsanjani].
He then said,
The people should be asked, are you satisfied with what has happened [and the state of the nation]? If the majority people [say that] they are satisfied, then we will also accept it.
In essence, Khatami is calling for a referendum on the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's government (and, by extension, the power of his supporters).
Separately, the ACC issued a strongly-worded statement in which it criticized the aftermath of the election, the crackdown on peaceful protesters and demonstrations, and the accusations made against the reformist leaders. It stated that,
Protecting the Islamic Republic, which is a great achievement of the great leader of the Islamic revolution [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini], is our duty, particularly because it is clear more than ever that both the republican aspect [giving people the right to elect their leaders democratically] as well as the Islamic aspect of [the political system] are being seriously threatened. In particular, what happened in the recent [presidential] election is a serious warning to all those who are loyal to the Revolution and the Imam's [Ayatollah Khomeini's] path, and wish to see great and proud Iran and Iranians.
The recent elections have seriously hurt the principle of "the measure [for public acceptance] is the people's vote," [a reference to what Ayatollah Khomeini had said about elections and the legitimacy of the leaders of the political system], and created the impression in the people's mind that there are groups who can change people's vote and present to them a result other than what they had wanted. Many innocent and loyal veterans of the Revolution and people's servants were insulted and accused [of wrongdoing] [a reference to accusations by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Rafsanjani and the reformist leaders].
What happened in this week's Friday prayer demonstrated, on the one hand, people's continued loyalty to the original Revolution that is being threatened by violent groups that are opposed to people's [lawful] rights and, on the other hand, provided the necessary background for the peaceful gathering of hundreds of thousands of people who believe that all the civil ways [for protesting the rigged elections] have been blocked. We thank the people for their courageous and very meaningful gathering, and are grateful for the wise and brave suggestions of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The statement then criticized the attacks on Rafsanjani and his family by the hard-liners, and stated that,
If we are truly interested in protecting the Revolution, the country, and the nation, we should all take seriously the wise suggestions made by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, which are in fact the minimum [suggestions] that can not only restore part of the people's rights, but also move the nation toward trust [in the political system] and tranquility, and increase the hope in [a better] future.
Thus, given that the trust of at least millions of people in the election process has been seriously damaged [by what has happened], the Association of Combatant Clerics insists, based on the explicit article of the Constitution [that stipulates that, in order to address important national issues, a referendum can be held], that, in order to end the present crisis, and instead on insisting on unproductive ways [of responding to people's protests] that only further ruin people's trust [in the political system], a free and democratic referendum be held and the people be asked their opinion about what has happened. The referendum must, of course, be held not by the organs and centers that destroyed the recent elections, but under the supervision of a neutral organ that is trusted by the people.
The ACC is a leftist clerical organization that was formed in 1987, when some important leftist clerics and senior aids to Ayatollah Khomeini left the Society of Militant Clergy (known in Iran as the Rouhaniyat), the main conservative clerical organization, and formed their own association. Such important clerical figures as Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha (the spiritual advisor to the leftist students who took over the United States embassy in Tehran in November 1979), former Interior Minister Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, and Majid Ansari, a member of the Expediency Council, belong to the ACC.
This is actually the first time that a referendum is supported by Khatami and his group. When he was the president, he resisted many calls for holding a referendum to resolve many important issues, including increasing the power of the president, decreasing the power of the Supreme Leader, and addressing the question of freedom of the press.
Khatami and the ACC are also following the line taken by Rafsanjani, who in his recent Friday prayer sermon said the nation was in a state of crisis, a situation that calls for crisis management. The hardliners dispute this notion of a crisis. They insist that there are only groups of rioters, supposedly linked to "foreign powers" like the United States, Britain, and Israel. And as such, they believe this calls for riot management, or the use of force by the security and intelligence operatives. This is a fundamental difference between the views of the reformists and democratic groups, and the hardliners.
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