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Iranian Opposition Leader Wants Referendum On Government Policies


Iranian and Lebanese flags atop a billboard depicting Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Beirut

Iranian and Lebanese flags atop a billboard depicting Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Beirut

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi says President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's foreign and internal policies should be put to a national referendum, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

In comments on the "Kalame" website on October 5, Musavi criticized Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN General Assembly last month in which he suggested the U.S. government was behind the terror attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Musavi challenged Ahmadinejad to "hold a referendum to see if people support these destructive policies or not."

Abbas Millani, a political-science professor at Stanford University, told RFE/RL on October 5 the authorities would not hold such a referendum. He said if they were ready to do so, "they would not have rigged the presidential election in June 2009. They know that [the government and its supporters] are a very small minority and would [had] have no chance to take power."

Millani said Iran's leadership should allow a referendum under international supervision if they are convinced that 25 million voters -- roughly the number of votes Ahmadinejad officially received in the last presidential election -- supports it and if they believe the opposition Green Movement has only minor support.

He said a referendum would demonstrate not just a high level of popular support for the Green Movement, but low support for the government would cause its level of legitimacy to fall internationally.

Iranian prosecutor Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei recently said criminal charges will soon be brought against Musavi and other Green Movement leaders.

But, Millani told RFE/RL the authorities cannot risk arresting Musavi and prominent opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi, both of whom ran for president against Ahmadinejad in 2009.

"They know [that arresting them] is a 'red line' and if they cross it the whole system might collapse," Milani noted.
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