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Iran: “Islamic Democracy” Evolves

Signaling a seismic change in Iran's political environment, reform candidates won the overwhelming majority of seats in Feb. 2000 parliamentary elections, thereby wresting control from hard-liners, who had dominated the parliament since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The parliament's reformist transformation greatly buttressed the efforts of moderate president Mohammad Khatami in constructing what he intends to become a nation of “lasting pluralism and Islamic democracy.” Khatami has walked a jittery tightrope between student groups and other liberals pressuring him to introduce bolder freedoms, and Iran's military and conservative clerical elite (including Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei), who have expressed growing impatience with the president's liberalizing measures. By Oct. 2000, however, the deeply conservative judiciary dampened the reformist impulse by systematically closing down every remaining pro-democracy publication. The new parliament soon countered by introducing legislation that would limit the judiciary's authority to crack down on the press.


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