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Khatami: Referendum a Solution to Crisis

20 Jul 2009 18:0810 Comments
From left to right: Mohammad Khatami; Mousavi Bojnourdi, a member of ACC, Mir Hossein Mousavi; Mohammad Mousavi Khoeiniha; and Mohammad Ali Ansari, a former member of Iran's parliament and council of experts.

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.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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The lines are being drawn. Please be careful over there.


Dave In America / July 20, 2009 3:19 PM

Qom is offering the climbdown to Khamenei.

Rafi is still pushing his islamic council, which could also be a climbdown.

If the prisoners are not released by July 30 flash mobs will march on Evin to release the prisoners. The only way Khamenei could withstand the mobs that will come is to have the army execute a Tianamen.

He may be losing the army.

Khamenei understands he has lost the people and lost Qom.....does he have the army?

matoko / July 20, 2009 4:38 PM

i find it hard to beileve that the dictatorship will allow a direct challenge on the legitimacy of their government could such a thing exist??

yisroel / July 20, 2009 7:43 PM

I worry that the time for a peaceful resolution has passed. It seems as though both sides have gone too far to give in now. And sadly, the result of an irristable force slamming headlong into an immovable object is usually catastrophic.

Dave In America / July 20, 2009 8:27 PM

as much as i support this movement and the desire of these young iranians,for a better and free society,i do sometimes wonder if the new alternative,and the moderates are really going to give the honorable people of iran what they want.mr khatami has visited university of va.the home of the jefferson,father of the american constitution.my daughter was there studying at the time and she called me that khatami

is there.are we really going to get the jeffersonian democracy in iran.

mrs moussavi,mentioned that her hero is hazrat zahrah ,the heroen of the 14 century.tell that to those beautifull,chanel wearing young women of iran wearing green ribbon.do they think the same?that is my concern.

fay moghtader / July 20, 2009 10:20 PM

If you ask me I would say that the donkey (Islamic Republic) should be replaced not the saddle (like Ahmadinejad or Hatami or Mousavi).

Shawn / July 21, 2009 9:15 AM

Unfortunately, this seems to be yet another Mohammad Khatami special, which is him genuinely trying to be helpful, but, with very little idea of knowing what to do or how to do it!

It is clear that an independent referendum will be effectively a slap in the face for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad's government as they will lose with a huge margin! This will then be seen as rejection of them both and the system! So why should Khamenei agree to it?

In any case, what then? lets assume that a referendum is held and Khamenei and Ahmadinejad lose the vote, what then? There will then have to be a re-run of the election as a minimum! That is back to square one!

It will certainly be much easier and practical to get Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to agree to a re-run of the election than a referendum, however remote the probability!

Omid / July 21, 2009 6:36 PM

Khamenei wont hear any of this. Its just like poking a gun on himself.

shetty / July 22, 2009 2:32 AM

I can truely say that the GOOD PEOPLE of Iran are really just wanting to live in peace. They really don't want to live under the supreme leader because he represents a dictator. I lived in Ahvaz for 3 years. I can tell you that I loved the iranian friends I had. I grew to really know them. They want freedom!!!!!! They want to live in peace. They want a government that gives them respect. They understand how the rest of the free world views them. They understand how they are viewed and this view is not a reflection of the people. They want to change how they are viewed. They realize that the reason they are viewed this way is because the fanatic religious system does not work. They realize that you must make religion and politics seperate. They realize that the passion of religion is not logical. The drama of politics and the passion of religion is fuel for disaster. The problem is that they are living under "the law" and the people will not and can not sustain growth this way. I look forward to the brilliant people of IRAN changing this oppession.

God Bless the Iranian people.

joseph from USA / July 23, 2009 4:42 PM

Thank you, Joseph, for reflecting the same qualities I have noted in my Iranian friends and colleagues. These are exciting times.

In Friday prayers today (July 24) Ahmad Khatami (not the recent candidate for president, Mohammed Khatami) attacked those seeking a referendum or other method of determining whether the June 12 election actually reflected the will of the people. His sermon also appeared to support the supreme authority of Ayatollah Khamenei, rather than the will of the people.

Of note, Ayatollah Khatami also strongly urged Mahmoud "Landslide" Ahmadenijad to set aside his choice of primary V.P., since Khamenei and other hard-liners oppose him and gave Mahmoud "Landslide" Ahmadenijad written corroboration of their views.

So far, however, Mahmoud "Landslide" Ahmadenijad has resisted the call to substitute someone else for his primary V.P., so the ball is still in play.

This lack of unity between the hardliners, including Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei, and supposed president Mahmoud "Landslide" Ahmadenijad may be one of the more hopeful signs that miss-communication, and lack of communication will contribute to sufficient embarrassment that a new election, or at least a refrendum will demonstrate how much the people of Iran want reforms, freedoms (which are STILL banned) and greater contact with the outside world.

Perhaps the degree to which the Revolutionary Guard is profiting from the huge black market in Iran is becoming better known, and greater understanding of what they has to mean, as far as their policies, techniques and ideals.

Stay tuned!

Roger / July 24, 2009 1:28 PM