Sunday, December 19, 2004

Netiran> An Interview with Behzad Nabavi on Seventh Majlis Elections

Netiran>Articles>Politics>Elections>An Interview with Behzad Nabavi on Seventh Majlis Elections: "An Interview with Behzad Nabavi on Seventh Majlis Elections

Mardom Salari, Daily Newspaper, No. 464, Aug. 17th, 2003, Page 2-3
By : Fayaz Zahed
Word Count : 2929

Vice-Speaker of the Sixth Majlis Behzad Nabavi says if the current situation continued, there would not be enough motives for the people to take part in the polls for the seventh Majlis. He believes taking part in the elections would only be effective when people's participation is high. Under the current circumstances people's turnout would be low-key, at least, in big cities, just like what happened during the municipal elections.
The following is a translation of the text of his interview with Mardomsalari.
Behzad Nabavi

Q: Thank you for the opportunity you gave us. A look at your face will reveal that you are no longer the lively youth of the past. Forty years of political activity, if I am right, has caused you to be known by the nickname, 'the old guerilla' than a reformist.
Nabavi: Forty-four years!
Q: Yes. Now, after all these years don't you think that you have made mistakes with regard to strategies adopted during the past 6-7 years or are still hopeful about the future?
A: To begin with, I must say that I have an objection to your question. During all these years it has become a habit that if a strategy proved a success, it had nothing to do with us. However, if it failed, we were to blame. Which strategy did I draw up that has failed? If I have done something, it had been coordinated with my respective organization. And my organization has always tried to attune itself to the rest of the May 23rd Front. Of course, this is my honor to accept the responsibility for failures, but I basically do not believe in such discussions.

Q: I mean do you accept the assumption that the reforms have hit a deadlock? If so, the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization and the whole May 23rd Front played a part in the formulation of the reform strategy. I do not mean that Behzad Nabavi in person, but the whole of which you have been a key factor.
A: Now we agree that everybody had a similar share.

Q: Of course, you share is not comparable with the rest.
A: Perhaps you believe that share of Mr. Khatami or Mr. Karoobi is much more than the others?

Q: No. But your role is special.
A: Firstly, I believe that our situation is not much worse than what it was after May 23 (1997). It is true that we have lost opportunities, but the same is true for the opposite side. After May 23, we enjoyed powerful support of people's public opinion. Of course, I prefer to say full support of people's public opinion because it is not a powerful factor in Third World countries. The late Mosaddeq enjoyed people's support, but he couldn't achieve his goals and the coup d'etat of August 19, 1941 put an end to his ambitions because in contrast to the developed nations, where the public opinion has the last say, this is not the case in the third world countries. Therefore, although we had people's support, we were facing problems too. We had the public opinion and the opposite faction controlled the gun and prison, which have the last say in the Third World countries! I pointed out during an interview with daily Salaam after victory of President Khatami that those who think Khatami has a lot of power were mistaken. I said he wields 10-20 percent of power provided that other powers cooperate with him. Today the reform movement has actually lost the main part of its popular support. I still believe that the movement has the most powerful potential for drawing people's support. Recent unrests proved that although foreign-based opposition can be influential, but it cannot replace the reform movement and this showed that people could still be hopeful about the reform movement. It depends on the movement to make a move and regain people's trust.

Meanwhile, due to various external conditions, the opposite side cannot use its tools as in the past. Existing conditions do not allow for widespread use of prison and the gun. Of course, sporadic arrests are still prevalent, but the general atmosphere inside and outside the county has restricted putschist moves against the reforms. At the beginning we were so worried about a possible coup or a similar measure, because the public opinion was fickle and not capable of countering a coup. But today we have no worries as to a coup. No. I not only do not believe that the reform movement is not a failure, but also think that conditions are much better than what they were at the beginning. Even during these last remaining months of the Parliament much could be accomplished if there were the will.

Q: You are more expected to come up with new strategies due to your long experience. You certainly agree with me that formulation of a strategy depends on its result. That is, if it fails, then it has been a bad strategy and if it succeeds, it would be a successful strategy.
A: It has nothing to do with the strategy. Any strategy can be a success or a failure.

Q: But the person who compiles it can have a role in how a strategy is being used. If he uses that strategy in a correct way, it shows that he has known the circumstances correctly. After May 23, you were among those personalities who did not agree to elimination of some figures; but it happened. A kind of radical atmosphere was created, both by the reformist and the anti-reform factions. After the victory of Khatami, Saeed Hajjarian said "All these conservatives must be swept out of the Majlis". Naturally, when conservatives hear that, they will not remain idle. Now that seven or eight months has remained for the sixth Majlis in which you hold a key post, don't you think that the reformists made strategic mistakes because they underestimated the gun and prison used by the opposite side? Or all their methods were correct?
A: The only dictation without mistakes is the one that has never been written. Every social movement is accompanied by ups and downs and our reform movement was not organized. Strategy is the mechanism of turning the status quo into a favorable situation. Therefore, if somebody does not recognize the status quo correctly, or pursue an idealistic situation, he cannot come up with a suitable strategy. If we err on the analysis of the status quo, we would not be spared from errors on strategy. Our main goals that are independence, freedom and the Islamic Republic were attainable and they were the main goals of the Islamic revolution. The main thing that caused us to fail was erroneous analysis of the status quo. We did not know the potentialities of the opposite faction and did not asses our fortes and weaknesses correctly.

Q: Some of your friends in May 23rd Front believe that you are still mistaken on the current situation, an example of which was the recent discrepancy between the Assembly of Combatant Clergy, on the one side, and the Islamic Iran Participation Front and the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization, on the other side.
A: I don't get you.

Q: We are faring under circumstances in which these forces are not unanimous about a future strategy. An example was the open letter to the leader. Many members of the assembly believed that the letter should not have been sent, but may members of the latter two groups deemed it correct. During your sessions, you said the reformists should speed at 'full throttle' and do not compromise on their objectives. Do you think that your current analysis of the situation is correct?
A: First, we must accept that May 23rd Front is not a political party. Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization did its best to form such a front. Soon after May 23, we sought to make a connection among various groups that had gathered around Mr. Khatami. This was realized two years after Khatami was elected president. It was an arduous task. The only commonalty among those groups was supporting Khatami and every group considered Khatami as materialization of its own goals. It was very hard to bring them together around a single axis, which was pulled off in 1999. However, establishment of May 23rd Front did not mean that a party has been formed. Some of the groups forming the coalition were even at loggerheads with one another during Majlis elections and it is wrong to expect such people to act as a party.
Therefore, presence of one or two opposing views among the front was quite natural. The conservative press aggrandizes the rift in order to make people believe that there is a deep gap in the front. But you must not take them seriously. There are discrepancies among various groups with regard to the strategy that should be taken for confronting current conditions. Firstly, this discrepancy is natural. Secondly, all groups are trying to diminish it. Thirdly, if it continued, mechanisms proposed by various groups must complement one another and no group within the front must weaken another group.

Q: Can these discrepancies so deepen that they affect the method chosen for confronting the conservatives? I mean are rumors about reunion of reformist and conservative clergy made by the conservatives to attain their goals or we would be witnessing a new arrangement on the threshold of the seventh Majlis elections?
A: I cannot say. As far as I know, the Assembly of Combatant Clergy has categorically denied such a reunion.

Q: Do you rule out the possibility that these groups may act separately during elections?
A: I do not rule out this possibility. If the current situation continued, the whole front might not be capable of taking a consolidated position just as it happened during municipal elections in which several kinds of reformist candidates took part...

Q: And failed!
A: That failure had nothing to do with lack of unanimity. If they were unanimous, they would have still failed. The main reason for their failure was lack of people's participation. So, the main concern is not discrepancies among the reform front but how to draw people to the ballot boxes. Of course, the ballot box is not a goal per se, but the main objective is survival of the system as well as independence and territorial integrity of the country and eliminating the existing gap between the system and the people. This is not a factional slogan, but a national goal. Any compromise among political factions should aim at bridging this gap. The existing discrepancy in the front is about how to attract people and bring them to the situation that reigned in the country on May 23, 1997. Our current motto is that we must create another May 23, but we are discordant as how to do this. However, I daresay that even if all political groups converge, the public opinion would not be impressed.
The 22 million people who voted for Khatami felt that he spoke for them and if they feel that he and his colleagues are moving in another direction, they will take their votes back and reformists would be isolated as conservatives. Our solution for filling the gap is too much emphasis on reform goals through all legal capacities.

Q: It seems that Khatami is distancing from his friends. I don't know how serious it is, but it is clear that Khatami is acting more formally and is more pragmatic, while his friends are more idealistic. At least, it seems that their expectations have risen. Some reformist figures even do not rule out the possibility of bypassing Khatami in following up people's demands. It this true or just a reformists' tactic?
A: Firstly, Mr. Khatami is still steadfast and is adamant on the twin bills.

Q: I think you are talking on the basis of expediencies.
A: No. Let me explain. Secondly, the same thing that we said about the connection between Khatami and reformists holds water here. Everybody says they are reformists. Even the conservatives have their own definition of reforms and maybe they end up claiming to be reformists according to the same definition. Naturally, all reformists do not think similar to Khatami because they did not form a party with Khatami. Even Khatami's connection with the Assembly of Combatant Clergy is not similar to party ties. Even when we talked about the four political factions with Khatami that is the traditional right, the modern right, left and the modern left, he joked, "With your definition I would be standing between the modern right and the left." Therefore, it was evident from the first that Khatami was not affiliated to any specific party. There are discrepancies, but nobody believes in bypassing Khatami.

Q: Can you mention some cases where Khatami's conduct has not appeased the reformists?
A: Why I must provide feed for the anti-reform front? I discuss my viewpoint about various issues and it is not necessary to say whether my viewpoints agree with Khatami's or not.

Q: I agree.
A: If i was being interviewed by an anti-reform newspaper, I wouldn't have been surprised at their effort to pitch me against Khatami, but I don't expect that from you. If we had any discrepancy with Khatami or other May 23 groups, we would try to alleviate it or, at least, not aggravate it.

Q: Apparently, after the recent tension among Shakoori Rad, Naeimipoor and Karoobi, steps have been taken for reconciliation. Is that true?
A: There hasn't been a tension and Mr. Naeimipoor has not had any conflicts with anybody. There was a little misunderstanding that was removed. The May 23 groups still continue to hold joint meetings from time to time. You talk as if the contacts have been totally cut off and an arbitration board had been set up to reconcile them. Even after exchange of strong words, Naeimipoor spent an hour with Khatami to eliminate any misunderstanding.

Q: You describe a one-hour meeting unimportant?
A: Mr. Karoobi explained about his encounter with Naeimipoor during a following session of the Parliament and it was nothing to cause a tension. Naturally, a one-hour talk to head off further misunderstanding was not something special. Neither members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, nor Karoobi believed in such dealings.

Q: During previous elections, you prepared yourself from a long time ago, but this time it seems that you do not care for the elections. Is it because you have no hope in winning the polls due to approbatory supervision or low turnout? Why the reform front is not caring about the elections? What is happening?
A: If the current situation continued, we would not have enough motives to take part in the polls. We believe taking part in the elections would only be effective when people's participation is high. Under current circumstances we believe that people's turnout would be low-key, at least, in big cities, just like what happened during municipal elections.

Q: If you don't do anything, the current trend is sure to persist.
A: Yes, but we must answer the question that how the gap between people and the government can be bridged? If it is not done, the elections would be futile. Assume that the approbatory supervision is removed as of now, just like municipal elections. There was no approbatory supervision in those elections, but not even a single reformist candidate was elected in big cities. The reason was that people did not participate. In the absence of people, the conservatives would win by relying on their traditional 10-percent share of votes. It is naivety that some of our friends are concerned whether they would be qualified or not, because even if qualified, who is gong to vote for them in case of a low turnout? Therefore, before thinking about the qualifications, they must think about how to persuade people to come to the ballot box.

Q: Some believe that people's moves are sinusoidal. They did not take part in municipal elections, but there will be a high turnout for parliamentary polls.
A: This is one of Nostradamus predictions! It is not based on an analysis. If the current situation continued, the turnout would be low. Recent events show that if the people do not vote for the reformists, they would not vote for the conservatives too.

Q: How much you hope to change the status quo?
A: It cannot be calculated. We must try.

Q: Do you believe in a compromise?
A: The situation cannot be improved through a compromise.

Q: And it will not be improved through a battle too.
A: Battle is much different from compromise.

Q: So, tell us what is the intermediate state between a battle and a compromise?

A: We must go ahead at 'full throttle' as much as the legal capacities make room for us. We must make people believe that reformists can really do something. That is we must make people return to the scene. As Khatami put it, the previous wave must return toward the system or, at least, part of the system.

Q: Do you believe that people will trust you again during the remaining seven months?
A: There is no other choice. Such a turnaround would be necessary for safeguarding our independence, territorial integrity and the whole system."