Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has reiterated his insistence on open political space for political parties, the release of political prisoners and a commitment to the constitution —all to ensure that all Iranians are full participants in the next parliamentary elections.
Khatami told a meeting of the Shiraz University Students Association: “Elections are our right, and no one has the right to take free elections away from us and monopolize them for a certain group, just because we have our objections.”
Insisting that freedom is based on open elections, he added: “They need to open up the political space; universities and societies must set up Q & A sessions, political parties and groups should be allowed to become openly active; they should have representatives and candidates; the provisions of the constitution should be adhered to, while house arrests and incarcerations should end so that everybody can participate in the elections.”
In December, Khatami announced that Iranian reformists will participate in the coming parliamentary elections only if political prisoners are released and elections are transparent and open to all candidates.
His statement triggered a hot debate on who should or could participate in the coming elections in March.
The ultra-conservative head of the Guardian Council, which oversees the process of candidacy and elections, has rejected Khatami and his reformists, saying the people do not believe in them anymore. Meanwhile, senior reformists have noted that the establishment’s behaviour suggests the elections will not be healthy and, therefore, they must be boycotted by the entire reform faction.
In his recent statements, Khatami has said: “We who call for healthy and desirable elections are the defenders of the Islamic Republic and the regime that people voted for. Those who claim that the outcome of things should be determined by such-and-such an institution, which has power, arms and facilities but no accountability, or by special groups, is harming the system.”
He added: “There are political currents that do nothing but slander, insult, assassinate character and put people under arrest, and unfortunately, they enjoy a kind of immunity; these are the ones that are harming the system, Islam and the Revolution.”
The former president went on to say: “When the organizers are impartial, military and security forces do not interfere, all political groups are allowed to have their candidates, and representatives of the parties and of the people are given the right to oversee all election procedures, from voting to the announcement of the results, then the elections will be vibrant and decisive.”
Iranian reformists are wary of participating in the coming parliamentary elections after the 2009 presidential elections were marred by allegations of fraud, which led to mass protests and the widespread arrest of protesters and reform figures.