Democracy Is Not Summarized in Elections

• Jan 7th, 2004 • Category: Interviews

Sharqh, Daily Newspaper, No. 109, Jan. 7th, 2004, Page 4

Prominent Iranian philosopher Dr Abdolkarim Soroush takes the elections seriously because he believes in democratic moves. He, however, says one can hold either a positive or negative view of democratic moves.
The renowned university professor is of the view that the next parliaments will not be similar to the current one because the people have become further demanding. We publish the full text of the interview with Dr Soroush.

Q: What do you think about the elections process?
A: I firmly believe in institutionalization of democratic moves in the country and so I take them seriously. I invite the others to take the vote seriously.

However, one can hold either a positive or negative view of democratic moves. It is too soon for me to tell you what I will do. I wait for the Guardian Council to vet the candidates and then I will publicize my decision. If the people are assured that the elections would be free and fair they will be encouraged to participate in the elections because they find logical grounds. I add this point that democracy is not summarized in the elections and democracy has its own constituents. Democracy is not realized merely with a high voter turnout.

Democracy is made up of the legislature, judiciary and the executive powers. We need an efficient, neutral and powerful judiciary in order to have clean elections.

Q: What is your assessment of the sixth parliament?
A: The sixth parliament had failures but I personally praise certain lawmakers for their courage. In my judgment, the lawmakers in the sixth parliament launched fruitful debates but it failed to make good on its promises. The legislators could not have twin reform bills of President Mohammad Khatami approved and so they dented the hopes of the people. In my view, the sixth parliament will never repeat in coming years and the people would become more demanding.

Q: Certain opinion-makers propose step-by-step approach toward democracy and put such approach in the face of anarchism and dictatorship. What do you think?
A: We are moving slowly toward democracy and we have to interpret the concept of “people’s rights” which constitutes the category of democracy.

Q: The younger generation thinks of the outcome of the vote and the conditions of the next parliament. How do you assess their vantage point?
A: We are witness to a rivalry between the people’s rights and the legitimacy of the system. We don’t know what will happen in the end and we should wait to see.

The authorities should know that the people would not tolerate negligence of their rights.

Q: What do the people want?
A: The people want justice to create hope in them. Justice cannot come up with horns and propaganda. The judiciary should handle cases fairly and punish instigators of troubles.

The newspapers that haven closed on baseless grounds should resume publication, the 1998 serial murderers of political dissidents and intellectuals stand retrial to make people believe that justice is being established. The only bone of contention does not involve the editors. I reiterate that injustice would result in disenchantment.

Q: Do you intend to single out the hardline vigilantes or pressure groups?
A: Mr. Khatami could have acknowledged his inability to run the affairs in the presence of such groups. He can admit the fact even today. We should know who is responsible for these groups. We should know how they are bankrolled and who support them. We cannot ignore our rights and we want impartial handling of the pressure groups. The vigilantes are called in to quell crisis. They have been nurtured for years and we want their supporters to rein them in.

Q: Are you optimistic about the future?
A: We should wait for the February elections.

Q: Where do you think the students’ disillusionment stem?
A: They must be demoralized because they have never been granted their rights. The student hostel was stormed in July 1999 and many were arrested last year and the perpetrators faced no punishment. Disenchantment can change into hope if the aggressors are brought into justice.

Q: What is your assessment of reform movement in the past years?
A: Reforms were inevitable and any president must have faced floods of demands. Reforms will never do although they may slow down. Neither the president, nor the ruling establishment gave rise to the reforms and the people brought them about. The disillusionment of the people does not imply the end of reforms but it means that the reforms have hit snags. They have to devise a loophole out of the morass. The people want more freedom and more justice. Their demands are legitimate. They imagined that the elections would meet their demands but now they see failure of the lawmakers. They will seek another solution. Nobody abandons hope for goals but everyone is upset because of failures.

Q: To what extent do you think the reformers have behaved correctly?
A: We have not gone the wrong way. We should search for justice today. The intellectuals should persuade the people to redouble their efforts for further legitimate demands. The people should not step back from justice and freedom.

Q: Certain individuals resort to abroad and want foreign intervention. Don’t you think that such attitude would give the reverse result?
A: Political obstruction in the country has led the people to count on overseas. Our youth who rarely know the history may imagine that their demands are met abroad.

Q: Haven’t we had any change in the behaviors in recent years?
A: Some people regrettably intend not to step back from their conservative attitude.

Q: But we have seen signs of changes. An example is destruction of solitary confinements. Aren’t they positive steps?
A: Even if we agree that they have done so they should explain to us why so many people were incarcerated in solitary cells for months. How come they have retracted their behaviors? Have they changed their theory or they have bowed to pressures? We should find answers to these questions to see if any change has taken place.


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