Mohammad Khatami

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has attempted to justify his decision to cast a vote on Friday in Iran’s parliamentary elections despite an apparent consensus among reformist groups that the elections should be boycotted.

On his personal website, Khatami writes that in view of the complexity of the issue and restrictions on providing information, he does not expect everyone to be satisfied with his explanations.

He writes: “The possible and desirable goal is returning the situation to one where the interests of the country and the main and historic demands achieve priority.”

He recognizes that the criticism of his action is valid, saying: “Such doubts and questions in the public space, especially from those who have suffered various difficulties and restrictions and borne heavy costs, are natural.”

He writes, however, that: “Establishing the strategy of not providing a list of candidates was never meant to include boycotting the elections. We must prove this in action so that our ill-wishers have no excuse to react and we leave room for greater understanding in order to achieve true progress for the country by stressing the rights and interests of the people.”

He goes on to advocate for a “national reconciliation and a return to the original ideals of the Revolution and the constitution and an atmosphere of cooperation.”

The parliamentary elections were boycotted by many reformist and opposition groups. Khatami himself had said that if political prisoners were not released and the government did not guarantee open and transparent elections within an open space for political activity, then participation in the elections would be “meaningless.”

His decision to vote made headlines on Friday, election day, and took reformists by surprise.

After the 2009 presidential elections, protesters took to the streets over allegations that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory over the reformist candidate MirHosein Mousavi was achieved through fraud. The two reformist candidates challenged the outcome of the elections and, after more than a year of persecution, they were finally put under house arrest, where they still remain cut off from the outside world.

Given the government’s insistence on detaining the opposition leaders and a large number of political prisoners, opposition groups announced that the elections were a sham and urged the people not to participate.

While the government has announced that voter participation rose by at least 10 percent in these elections, opposition news outlets report that polling stations were mostly deserted.