Iranian president Sayyid Mohammad Khatami was re-elected to office on June 8, in the country’s eighth presidential elections since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. He repeated his overwhelming victory in May 1997 by securing 77 percent of the votes cast in a contest in which nearly eighty percent of Iran’s electorate — everyone over the age of 15 — took part. In 1997 he had received about 70 percent of votes cast.
Former Labour minister Ahmed Tavakkoli secured second place in the poll, with 16 percent of the vote. Seven other candidates took part, including former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian and Abdollah Jasbi, head of the Islamic Azad University.
The conclusion of the polls was greeted with joy in many parts of the country, as people celebrated both the victory of president Khatami, which had been widely expected, and the successful conclusion of the polls.
Speaking after his victory, president Khatami said that his victory was an affirmation of the Islamic system of government established by the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and that he would continue to work towards the establishment of a just and moral society based on Islamic principles.
As in 1997, however, the Western media, which sets the tone for most of the world’s media, tried to present the massive turnout and president Khatami’s victory as a protest vote against the Islamic system. Among the features of the run-up to the election was an increase in US efforts to portray Iran as a terrorist and outlaw state, along simultaneously with overtures suggesting that improved relations between the two countries were possible if Iran showed signs of reform and, in the words of one commentator, a “willingness to engage with the world”.
In May, FBI director Louis Freeh accused Iran of responsibility for the bombing of the Khobbar Airbase in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, in which 16 US servicemen were killed. A short time earlier, however, the Bush administration extended sanctions against Iran for a further two years instead of the five-year period that had been expected.
This was explained by saying that Washington wanted to show that it was willing to make a rapprochement with Iran provided that Iran proved co-operative with it. It is also a concession to the American oil interests that bank-rolled Bush’s presidential election, who do not like sanctions that affect their potentially profitable business with Iran. The sanctions were imposed in 1995.
Speaking three days before the presidential elections, president Khatami effectively ruled out any resumption of relations by making them conditional on “fundamental changes” in Washington’s attitude to Iran.
“As long as the American statesmen are under the influence of certain lobbies and continue [the sanctions], it is very clear that they have to revise their policies,” he said. “If a precondition has to be set in Iran-America relations, they should be set by the country that has been oppressed, not by the country whose policies have caused untold damage to the Iranian people.”
Iran has previously made any possible talks with the US conditional on an end to the sanctions and the unfreezing of Iranian assets worth at least $10 billion that have been frozen in US banks since November 1980. America, under the thumb of the zionist lobby, demands that Iran reverse its rejection of the Middle East peace process before relations are possible. This is not going to happen, as Iran made clear by hosting an International Conference in support of the Intifada in Palestine in Tehran in late April.
What is made clear by the timing of the US’s increased pressure on Iran at the time of the elections is that the political maturity demonstrated by the smooth operation of Islamic Iran’s political process is what really scares the West. Now that Muslim masses all over the world are inspired and moved by the intifada in Palestine, the reminder of the benefits of Islamic rule that Iran’s elections are to other Muslims, particularly those in the Arab world, is a factor that the West cannot afford to ignore.