White House Questions Trends in Iran
Barry Scheid, Guardian:
As Iranians choose a new president, the Bush administration is deploring anti-democratic trends in the country. President Bush said Friday's voting was designed to keep power in the hands of a few rulers ``through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.'' His secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said, ``The sad thing about Iran is it is moving backwards not forward.'' ... READ MORE
``Democracy isn't a single-day event,'' she said. ...
Friday's election in Iran is to choose a successor to President Mohammad Khatami, who is limited constitutionally to his current second term.
None of the seven candidates, including former two-term president and front-runner Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, was expected to capture at least 50 percent of the vote. That would force a runoff election between the two top vote-getters.
Bush, on the eve of the balloting, said Iranians deserve a genuinely democratic system in which elections are honest and their leaders answer to them.
``To the Iranian people, I say: As you stand for your own liberty, the people of America stand with you,'' the president said.
Rice, meanwhile, took a skeptical view of trends in Iran, saying the system was more open a few years ago, but many moderate members of parliament are no longer able to run for office.
``When you have a system in which somebody arbitrarily sits and hand-picks who can run and who cannot run, it's a little hard to see that producing an outcome that is going to lead to improvement in the situation,'' she said.