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Reformist Iranian Cleric: 'The Establishment Seems To Fear Democracy'

Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi in Tehran
In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Iranian reformist cleric Hassan Yusefi Eshkevari has spoken out following the government's announcement of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's election victory. He was interviewed by telephone from his home in Tehran by Elaheh Ravanshad.

Radio Farda: What is your reaction to the official election result?

Hassan Yusefi Eshkevari: It seems that what has happened in Iran is a punishment for the people. People, including young Iranians, took to the streets and showed their maturity and their wish for peace and goodwill. That’s one issue. The other issue is that the establishment seems to fear democracy, and because of that it held an election coup d’etat to take its revenge on the people, especially on the youth.

Radio Farda: What surprised you most about the official result?

Yusefi Eshkevari:
The election result is not understandable by any logic because if Ahmadinejad was supposed to have 62 percent of the vote, there would have not been so many protests and so many efforts to replace him. Especially in the past month, all of Iran was calling in a united voice: We want to change [him] and we don’t want him [as president].

Radio Farda: Who do you think is behind it all?

Yusefi Eshkevari:
I am not aware of what goes on behind the scenes. I cannot comment on this. I have always criticized this secretive, behind-the-scenes diplomacy and non-transparent negotiations. Issues that could and should be solved lawfully should not be solved in behind-the-scene negotiations with the Supreme Leader or others. Those who possibly rigged these elections would not have done so without the consent of their leaders. It is impossible that they would have done it without getting reassurance from the authorities that they wouldn’t get punished.

Again, I am not aware of what has been going on behind the scenes and I cannot say what exactly has happened. Still, it wasn’t like a few people in the Ministry of the Interior decided in the last few hours to rig the election results and by doing so, put themselves against the nation and at the same time put themselves at risk, because such actions have serious consequences. The majority of people didn’t want Ahmadinejad to win, but it wasn’t only that. In recent days it became clear that Ahmadinejad had serious opponents even inside the leadership, among his fellow traditionalists. The damage of what has happened here, will be more apparent and more severe in future; it has caused more damage to Iran’s political system than Musavi’s victory would have.

Radio Farda: Do you mean Ahmadinejad’s re-election has done more damage to the system than Musavi’s presidency would have?

Yusefi Eshkevari: Yes, of course. Ahmadinejad’s second term will result in more crises for Iran’s international standing. And inside the country it will be a kind of confrontation with the people. Obviously, people’s opposition, dissatisfaction and criticism will increase and the distance between the people and the system will get bigger, because people feel that they were deceived or even insulted. Besides, inside the leadership the gap between Ahmadinejad’s supporters and his opponents will increase too.

Radio Farda: How do you see Ahmadinejad’s second term in office?

Yusefi Eshkevari: I predict that in the next four years, Ahmadinejad will face severe crises both outside and inside the country and especially within the political system. It is possible that serious disagreements will arise between the president and parliament, between the president and other bodies. It might even result in the president’s impeachment by the parliament.

Radio Farda: How do you think the other presidential candidates who lost their election bid will react in the coming days?

Yusefi Eshkevari: My 30 years of experience tells me that they won’t be able to do much. They will issue statements, send letters to the Supreme Leader protesting the results. But in a few days, the dust will settle and everybody will go back to their business. I don’t rule out that in two months' time, these candidates will even take part in Mr. Ahmadinejad’s inauguration ceremony. So, everything will finish calmly.

Radio Farda: Many students and others, who during the election campaign acted against Mr. Ahmadinejad, or expressed their happiness about the possibility of his departure or demonstrated their willingness for change in the country are now reportedly worried that they will be targeted by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters. What do you think?

Yusefi Eshkevari: It is not impossible that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s supporters, directly or indirectly, will target those people both to get revenge and create a climate of fear in society. They want to frighten people, because other elections, including parliamentary elections will take place in coming years and of course there is the next presidential election in four years -- and they, by creating a climate of fear, want to prevent people from becoming politically active.

This election isn’t the end. They will try to secure their victory in all those upcoming elections. And yes, those revenge attacks are possible.

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