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Heard This Week - 12/21/2006

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Washington, DC -- December 21, 2006) The focus of Radio Farda broadcasting this past week was on the December 15 elections to fill seats on municipal councils and the powerful Assembly of Experts, which oversees the work of Iran's supreme leader and has the power to dismiss him. A sampling of Election Day coverage is included here; complete Radio Farda election coverage can be found at Radio Farda also interviewed U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Labor and Human Rights Erica Barks-Ruggles for a U.S. perspective on Iran's conduct of the elections.

>> On Election Day, December 15 Radio Farda listeners were given the opportunity to consider the views of several analysts in Iran and abroad about the significance of the elections -- widely considered a setback for conservative forces aligned with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Constitutional Party of Iran representative Dariush Homayoun told Radio Farda, "We prefer that there won't be any participation in elections held by the regime but this depends on voters", while London-based activist Farrokh Negahdar said he believed this election would have a significant impact on the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections.
Washington-based sociologist Mehrdad Mashayekhi noted that, as the primary focus of the Assembly of Experts is to consolidate Iran's ruling philosophy of velayat-e faqih (rule of the Islamic jurisprudent), it is useless for those who seek a democratic society to participate in an election that, in essence, opposes democracy. Mashayekhi also told listeners that the disqualification of most of the candidates for municipal council seats by the Guardians Council frustrated the election process.
According to Iran Nation Party (Mellat Iran Party) leader Khosrow Seyf, speaking from Tehran, only select individuals are allowed by Iran's rulers to participate in elections. Seyf told Radio Farda listeners the Iran Nation Party has not participated in elections since 1980 -- and will not until there is freedom in Iran ( In Iran & Diaspora On Friday Elections.MP3)

>> Tehran-based sociology professor Sadegh Zibakalam, interviewed on Radio Farda's weekly "Viewpoints" program, told listeners he did not see much difference between this election and previous votes in Iran. "As before, some people thought that they were deprived of their civil rights because candidates were disqualified," Zibakalam said, noting that he believed the only difference was that Iranian fundamentalists were unable to agree on a consolidated candidates' list and instead offered two separate lists. Tehran-based reformist journalist Abbas Safaeifar, on the other hand, told Radio Farda the only positive aspect of the election process was that the reformists were able to put forward a unified list of candidates.
Ali Reza Kermani, a member of the Editorial Board of the banned monthly "Nameh", told Radio Farda listeners: "I think, in the present situation, the most reformist act is to refuse to participate in elections." Kermani also told listeners that elections aren't needed for the Assembly of Experts since, in some districts, only one candidate was allowed to stand (

>> Radio Farda interviewed Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the head of the Society to Defend Freedom of Press, who told listeners "The elections are being held in an atmosphere as cold as Iran's current weather." Shamsolvaezin believes that, because of the low voter turnout rate in major cities, reformists will win only a limited number of seats on municipal councils (

>> Radio Farda asked listeners to share their views on the elections. A selection of listeners' opinions can be heard at

>> Radio Farda's correspondents in all provinces provided listeners with hour by hour reports on 15-December elections.
Journalist Masoud Kordpour told Radio Farda that the opposition in Kurdestan -- which has its own media -- was influential in decreasing voter turnout (
Journalist Farid Yasamin said that, in Shiraz, only a certain class of people was allowed to become candidates and only a certain class of people goes to the polls -- most candidates and participants are immigrants to the region. Yasamin also told Radio Farda listeners that hardly any difference exists between fundamentalists and reformists in Shiraz Province -- noting that candidates well-known for their earlier conservative views were now found on the reformist election list, and vice versa (
Zahedan-based journalist Mahmoud Barahoutinejad told Radio Farda about a bomb blast that occurred the night before the election, when someone detonated a car filled with explosives (
Tabriz-based correspondent, Peyman Pakmehr described for Radio Farda listeners the election atmosphere in his region (
Radio Farda also talked to journalist Isa Saharkhiz, who told listeners that reformists are concerned about the reliability of official voter turnout reports (

>> On December 16, Radio Farda broadcast an interview with Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. During the interview, broadcast as part of Radio Farda's weekly "U.S.-Iran Magazine", Barks-Ruggles told listeners that the U.S. government is "disappointed that the process of elections in Iran did not allow the Iranian people to participate in a free open and transparent election." Barks-Ruggles also said that the election process itself -- and not just the casting of ballots -- is important, because proper democratic elections are about more than voting, they provide an opportunity for people to freely choose from among a broad range of candidates; to freely associate and form political parties to advocate their point of view; to have access and the opportunity to express themselves openly through the media; and to publicly express their opinions on the political issues of the day (

For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit: -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran

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