Iran | Khatami Attempts to Liberalize Nation
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Khatami Attempts to Liberalize Nation
By early 1991, the Islamic revolution appeared to have lost much of its militancy. Attempting to revive a stagnant economy, President Rafsanjani took measures to decentralize the command system and introduce free-market mechanisms.
Mohammed Khatami, a little-known moderate cleric, former newspaperman, and national librarian, won the presidential election with 70% of the vote on May 23, 1997, a stunning victory over the conservative ruling elite. Khatami supported greater social and political freedoms, but his steps toward liberalizing the strict clerical rule governing the country put him at odds with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
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 Khatami in constructing a nation of “lasting pluralism and Islamic democracy.” Khatami 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 Khamenei), who expressed growing impatience with the president's liberalizing measures. In June 2001 presidential elections, Khatami won reelection with a stunning 77% of the vote.
In Jan. 2002, President Bush announced that Iran was part of an “axis of evil,” calling it one of the most active state sponsors of international terrorism.