Iran’s Khatami warns of ‘return of despotism via populism’

March 8th, 2008 - 9:39 pm ICT by admin  

Tehran, March 8 (DPA) Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami Saturday warned of “return of despotism via populism”, ISNA news agency reported. “One of the greatest dangers in Iran is the return of despotism via populism,” Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying in a campaign speech in Tehran ahead of Friday’s parliamentary elections.

The reformist cleric was referring to his successor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has frequently been blamed by his opponents for his populist rhetoric for realising political and economic promises.

“The art (of diplomacy) is removing threats and not preparing the ground for them and even welcoming them,” Khatami said, referring to the three UN Security Council resolutions against Iran over the nuclear dispute, international uproar over Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic remarks and even the probability of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.

Khatami, together with former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, leads the reformist-moderate coalition in the March 14 elections.

But as two-thirds of the coalition’s candidates were rejected by the senate-like Guardian Council, allegedly for lack of ideological qualification, reformists just count on a one-third share of the 290 parliament seats.

“There had been big plans to neutralise people’s attendance at the polls … we (reformists) have been suppressed but we will still compete in the elections with the minimum of potentials but the maximum of enthusiasm,” Khatami said.

“Even those rejected (from running in the elections) still have credit in the society,” added Khatami, who is hoped by reformists to run against Ahmadinejad in next year’s presidential elections.

Meanwhile, the main conservative faction, which is affiliated to Ahmadinejad, proclaimed that it would not blindly follow presidential policies, either.

“We have in the last four years also voted against government decisions and will keep our independence, but our opposition is not aimed at weakening the government,” said Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Hadad-Adel, who is top candidate of the main conservative faction.

Hadad-Adel stressed that his faction - also known as the group of principles - would definitely defend Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising nuclear policies despite international opposition and the risk of international isolation.

The second conservative faction running in the elections includes officials who despite their full loyalty to the system are highly critical towards the president.

One of the main candidates of this faction is Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who last October quit his job due to grave differences with Ahmadinejad over nuclear policies.

Larijani is also a harsh critic of the president’s economic policies widely regarded as the main reason for the high inflation (20 to 30 percent) and economic hardship for the poor social strata and even upper middle-class.

Observers believe that as the people are fed up with ideological disputes between reformists and conservatives, they consider the Larijani faction to be more capable of confronting the pro-Ahmadinejad faction in the elections, especially as Larijani and his men also have the backing of the influential clergy.

The new conservative faction is also considered to be better able to deal with economic problems, the main concern of the people, than the reformists.

The March 14 elections are considered as an indicator of President Ahmadinejad’s prospects of re-election next year. It is considered that other top officials would have serious chances of challenging him in the 2009 presidential elections.

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