By Daniel Chejfec
The lessons of what happened in Iran with their elections are multiple and play at many levels. It is not as if the results of the polls were a surprise; we knew Ahmedinejad would win; the question was for how much. In a country where the concept of Democracy is that every opinion that agrees with the government is accepted, a landslide win by the seating President is in fact a given...but it was not a landslide, and THAT was a surprise. The opposition had a better showing than expected, and judging by the way people took to the streets in protest, maybe their showing was even better than the official results show. The conflict in the street uncovered a series of truths about Iran...
There are fractures in the Mullahs camp – some religious leaders do not agree with the government; Ahmedinejad has been challenged – and he failed to deal with the opposition as a true leader should deal, with respect. And last but not least, Democracy and Elections are not synonymous, while elections are a necessary condition for Democracy, they are not sufficient condition, and that means that while you cannot have democracy without elections, you can have elections without democracy.
Moussaui challenged the status quo with the support of some dissident religious leaders, but not the ones holding the reins of power, as proven by the bloody repression that followed the demonstrations. We need to understand that in other cultures, the whole idea of power and government might be radically different from ours. In many Muslim countries, if you hold the reins of power, it is your right to dictate what is right and wrong and to impose it on your subjects – YES, the civilian population is mostly seen as subjects in those countries. A lesson for the West is that promotion of Democracy must start with promotion of grass roots involvement in civic organizations, independent from the government, something which in fact serves to challenge those in power to live by the rules, and not breaking them whenever it is convenient for them. The reason that Hamas is NOT a valid partner around the table is not their religious beliefs – they are entitled to them – or even their ideology – again, they are entitled to it – but the fact that they deny everything agreed so far between the Palestinians and Israel because they don’t like it, to the point that they are even unwilling to recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish State. Civilized behavior depends on respecting your agreements, and Democracy needs popular participation, and even challenge to those in power; those are the checks and balances of a free society.