Thousand candidates barred by theocrats

The fake left looks to change from above, writes Iranian socialist Yassamine Mather

Recounts in four provinces; resignation of a senior cleric, Mehdi Karoubi - a former minister of the interior and presidential candidate - from all his posts; angry letters by Karoubi, accusing the son of 'supreme leader' Ali Khameini of bribery and vote-rigging; warnings by some 'moderates' that Iran was facing a 'military fascist' islamic government; closure of two 'reformist' papers "¦ all this happened within three days of an election that was supposed to be a peaceful contest amongst the chosen few supporters of two factions of the islamic regime. After all, the Guardian Council had already disqualified over 1,000 presidential candidates - most of them were considered 'unsuitable' for failure to adhere to islamic principles. The first round of Iran's presidential election and the events of the last few days have surprised some observers. However, if one considers the inability of either faction of the regime to come up with a single candidate, the fact that Hashemi Rafsanjani, this well known figure amongst major capitalist plunderers (and a principal operator in the 'Irangate' 'arms for Contras' scandal of the mid-1980s), was standing as a 'unity' candidate, it is clear that both factions of the Islamic Republic were well aware of the crisis facing the entire regime. This election was supposed to unite the regime's supporters, yet, like many other events in Iran, it has only served to expose the crisis of the shia state. These elections have marked the end of the reformist project. Eight years in power have proved beyond doubt that the 'reformist' faction has neither the will nor the capability to reform the islamic state. The abysmal showing of its candidate, Mostafa Moin, reflects the current standing of this faction amongst urban youth and women, its natural constituency. The first round of the presidential elections and the inevitable support for the 'pragmatic' hardliner, Rafsanjani, are another nail in the coffin for the project of 'reforming' the clerical regime. Almost all the factions around outgoing 'reformist' president Mohammad Khatami declared their support for Rafsanjani, simply to avoid the prospect of a fundamentalist military man imposing harsher religious diktat over Iranians, making life even more unbearable for most. Hashemi Rafsanjani: pragmatist Yet, as far as internal economic policies are concerned, the two remaining candidates in the June 24 run-off would continue with laissez faire neoliberalism - Rafsanjani faces Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, who unexpectedly finished second in the first round. We are witnessing unique conditions. For the first time in two decades there are in Iran widespread protests by workers against conditions, lack of job security and non-payment of wages, and demands for the setting up independent workers' organisations, for a decent wage, etc. The radical sections of the women's movement are getting stronger and no one can hold back their struggle for equality and abolition of islamic legislation. Youth and students openly express their hatred for the presidential candidates and called for a boycott of the election, joining the ranks of those who call for the overthrow of the regime. Whoever wins on June 24, foreign policy will be a continuation of Khatami's line of cooperation with the European Union and negotiations with the US regarding nuclear enrichment (while using 1980s anti-US rhetoric), and there is little difference in their attitude towards international capital. In fact in this there are no major differences between the current Iranian leadership and the rightwing forces who oppose the regime, including the candidates of 'regime change' who already benefit from the US administration's financial and political support. Whichever of these alternatives comes to power or claims victory, neo-colonial, neoliberal economic policies will continue, with the inevitable consequence of increasing poverty and unemployment. The Iranian opposition is not much better. Many of the previous supporters of the Soviet Union in Fadayan Aksariyat and Etehad Fadayan, having 'discovered' human rights, proposed a referendum to facilitate 'regime change from above' - entirely in line with what royalists and other discredited pro-US forces are demanding. Some individuals in Aksariyat, such as Farrokh Negahdar, along with the whole of the former pro-Soviet Tudeh Party, called for a vote for the candidate of the 'reformists', Moin. At a time when most 'reformists' themselves agree that the potential for gradual change within the islamic regime is virtually zero, the perseverance of these supporters of the survival of the shia clergy is both laughable and unbelievable, yet, not deterred by Moin's poor performance, the Tudeh Party is now complaining that the elections were rigged - as if an election which barred over 1,000 candidates could have been considered anything but a sham in the first place. Meanwhile, the majority of the people continue to be deprived of political, economic and cultural freedom - in other words, they continue to suffer under the repression of the dictatorship l Yassamine Mather