Damaged Democracy

What are opposition candidates to do when they are asked to take part in elections that they know they cannot win, or that, even when they can win, will give them only minimal authority? There is no absolute yardstick on how to behave in these impossible circumstances, so candidates and voters alike must judge every election on its merits.

New York – Even before the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, decided to throttle what little legitimacy was left of Iran’s “managed democracy,” it was a peculiar system, indeed. Although Iranian citizens had the right to elect their president, the candidates had to be vetted by the Council of Guardians, half of whom were picked by the unelected Supreme Leader.

The only candidates allowed to run were men with impeccable religious credentials, loyal to a regime whose most important decisions are made by unelected clerics. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, chosen by the late Ayatollah Khomeini to be prime minister in 1981, was such a figure.

Mousavi ran as a reformist who said he would strive for greater freedom of the press, more rights for women, and fewer restrictions on the private lives of Iranians. He also hinted at more flexibility in negotiations with the United States.

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