Khatami's Victory - an Upsurge of Modernism in Iran
Haque, Mohammad Zahirul, Economic Review
Dr. Mohammad Khatami (54), an open-minded leader of Iran, came out successful in the presidential election defeating Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, a conservative who is one of the most faithful followers of Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khatami was declared elected on May 23, 1997. There was a great expectation that Nateq Noori would come out victorious hands down. But the popular support did change very fast, shifting the support of the voters from Nateq Noori to Khatami, rising gradually from 13.9 per cent to 52 per cent on the election eve, as was evident from the survey of the popular support. On the election day Khatami won by a landslide victory of 69.7 per cent votes of 29.7 million voters - a great victory indeed winning more than two thirds of the total number of seats. It may be noted that the turnout was not less than 88 per cent, almost double of that in 1993. It was according to Abdul Karim Saroush, one of the most prominent international critics, that the election was a referendum for liberty, democracy etc. A supporter of Khatami very interesting branded him as "Ayatullah Gorbachev", which means that he would undermine the existing system. This was, in fact a tussle between conservatism and modernism, in which tussle the former gave in. The clerics could not stand the wind that stormed against and uprooted it. It was a disgraceful defeat indeed for the rulers getting less than one-third of the total number of votes. This victory actually brought about a grass-root change from fanaticism and short sightedness to tolerance and enlightenment. This victory is not less than a heraldic call towards progressive ideas in attitudes, although, according to the ex-president Ali Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani, it was not at all "a protest note" against the conservative parliamentary speaker Nateq Noori, but there were a number of issues hovering on the minds of the people, which they wanted to achieve in a very short while. But Rafsanjani did not clarify what were those issues.
The supreme head, of the state Ayatullah Khamenie the successor of Ayatullah Khomeini admitted defeat and congratulated Khatami. Nateq Noori also admitted defeat calling Khatami as "the Chief Executive", and hoped that the participation of a huge number of voters (89%) in the election guarantees the continuance, of the exercise of voting rights in future. On the contrary, Khatami, the elected president, despite the fact that he is an establishment man himself, a senior cleric from the family of clerics, whose father was very close to Ayatullah Khomeini, yet Khatami is an open minded moderate. As a minister in 1980s, he eased censureship allowing more imports of foreign publications, and generously encouraged film making, which flourished and won laurels of international festivals. No less important to him had been women's votes who were almost fed up with the regime and looked for emancipation. But his moderate and tolerant attitude became responsible for his ouster from the government in 1992.
In the election, all the intellectuals, younger generation, secular minded people and those others who are fed up with the conservatism, and those who do not like the society to be unnecessarily shackled with the religious bondage, came out in bulk to vote for Khatami in order to exterminate religious order with a view to have fresh air of non-prejudicious mentality. Generation gap in Iran has taken such a formidable shape that the younger people are not in a mood to listen to the advice of their elders, and expect too much of reforms from the new regime. President Rafsanjani has rightly said that the people have not cast "a vote of protest" against the religion, but against the way the republic was being mishandled in the name of religion". …