The New Landscape of Iranian Politics

by Morad Saghafi
published in MER233

After seven turbulent years in which a reformist movement transformed Iran’s political landscape as well as its international image, conservatives recaptured two thirds of the parliament in February 2004. “Victory” for the conservatives was achieved, in large part, by the intervention of the unelected Guardian Council, which succeeded in rejecting the candidacy of 2,400 reformist candidates. The “Tehran spring” -- when Iranians and international observers hoped that reformists could bring about peaceful, democratic transformation of the Islamic Republic -- has faded.

"The Future is on Our Side"

An Interview with Mustafa Barghouthi

by James E. Bishara
published in MER234

Mustafa Barghouthi is the secretary and co-founder of the Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara), formed in 2002 to advocate for an immediate end to the occupation of Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967, a Palestinian state on those territories, and expedited reform of Palestinian Authority governance. Mubadara called from its formation for “free, democratic elections for all political posts” in the Palestinian Authority (PA). A physician, Barghouthi is the long-time president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees and founder of the Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute, a think tank focused on public health and public policy and based in Ramallah in the West Bank. During the second Palestinian intifada, he helped to organize the Grassroots International Protection for the Palestinian People program, which, like the International Solidarity Movement, brings activists from around the world to the Occupied Territories to bear witness to and attempt to deter Israeli army and settler violence directed at Palestinian civilians. Mustafa Barghouthi was a candidate for president in the Palestinian election held on January 9, 2005. He finished second to President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). James E. Bishara, an editor of Middle East Report, spoke with Barghouthi on February 20, 2005.

Iraqi Elections

by Chris Toensing
published in MER234

Just once, one wishes, events in post-invasion Iraq could transpire without instantly being spun as helping or hurting President George W. Bush. There was no such luck after images of Iraqis cheerfully -- even joyously -- voting in the January 30, 2005 elections for a provisional national assembly zipped around the world. Bush, not surprisingly, claimed the images as vindication of the 2003 invasion and proof that his promised “forward march of freedom” in the Middle East is just getting started.

And the Winner Is...

Authoritarian Elections in the Arab World

by Jillian Schwedler , Laryssa Chomiak
published in MER238

The administration of President George W. Bush claims a commitment to promoting democratization in the Arab world, whether through regime change or by pressuring authoritarian leaders through “transformational diplomacy” to open their political systems. It has been tempting for the administration’s supporters to find evidence for the success of these policies in the spate of elections in Arab countries in 2005.

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The Hamas Headache

by Ranjit Singh
published in MER238

Two days before the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections, Birzeit University professor and Hamas campaign adviser Nashat Aqtash found himself in an unusual situation. Bound by US regulations forbidding direct contact with Hamas, the joint National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Carter Center election observer delegation asked Aqtash -- who pointedly describes himself as a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not of Hamas -- to brief its members on the Islamic organization’s philosophy and electoral activities. After enthusiastically showing several Hamas TV advertisements, Aqtash provided the large group of observers gathered in Ramallah a list of reasons why Hamas may consider a long-term hudna (state of calm), but never a permanent peace with Israel.

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In the Heart of Iran

The Electorate of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

by Bernard Hourcade
published in MER241

The first round of the 2005 Iranian presidential election was rich in lessons regarding the country’s political life, in general, and regarding the political comportment of diverse sectors of the population, in particular. Contrary to what is often said, electoral fraud alone does not explain -- or only partially explains -- the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His incontestable win over one of the most eminent members of the clergy, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, had deeper causes that require an analysis borrowing from various social sciences.

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