By Camelia Entekhabifard
June 21, 2021
In an exclusive interview with Independent Persian, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose candidacy was rejected by Iran’s Guardian Council, said that the presidential election is symbol of the nation’s will. It is not about dropping a piece of paper in a box and leave.
He said: “There are times that we have a legal obligation, and times when we really wish to make positive and progressive things happen on the ground. For the country to progress and develop, people need to express their will freely.
He added: “Free will would transform everything. No obstacle can withstand the collective will of a nation. Elections are the vehicle of this will which should continue to perpetuate.”
He added: “We hoped and still hope that there will be a day when both in Iran and in the world at large a common decisive will would permeate the governance of countries so we would see a better situation from what we witness today.”
He referred to his recent tweet comparing the June 18, 2021 election to a popular referendum and the need for a new referendum to decide the structure of governance in Iran.
He said: “I do not routinely expect elections to turn into referendums, but authorities themselves called it a referendum and asked people to participate in the election under the banner that each vote would be a renewal of covenant with the Islamic Republic. It was, therefore, they themselves who turned the election into a referendum.”
He added: “Almost 100% of Iranians took part in the first referendum, and 98.9% of the votes were positive (endorsing the Islamic Republic). Now it (public participation) is reduced to 48%. If you count void ballots – as some do – this percentage goes down to less than 40%.
“The people are the same people. The Iranian nation has, over the course of history, stayed true to itself and safe-guarded their culture and values. These are the same people who in defense of their country against the enemy in 1978,79 and 80, sent their children over mines and did not lose a meter of their land.
“I think, those who are the cause of this situation should be held to account. They should put aside their superior attitude and answer the people. The first step would be to reflect and see what they have done to have made this great and ancient nation to withdraw and to look at them from the margent. I hope for this to happen.”
In reply to the chief editor of the Independent Persian who asked him if he had been persecuted for his critical stance against the governance, Ahmadinejad said: “I think if you enter into the realm of reform, you must be ready to face the consequences. We have been under increasing pressure over these years. My best friends were under pressure. At this moment a considerable number of my colleagues are facing heavy sentences that may be implemented at any moment.”
He added: “The heaviest propaganda in the history of Iranian politics have been aimed against us. We planned a visit to “Orumieh” (capital city of the north-eastern province of Rezaiieh) at the invitation of their citizens. A curfew was announced, so many individuals were abducted during the night and so many were threatened. We are under such pressure on a daily basis, but as I said, if we want reform to happen, we should overcome these (obstacles) come what may.
“As I said in my last week’s interview, best to give my life to the revolution and its values, to the “Imam Mahdi” (last Shiite Imam said to be in occultation), social reforms and serving the great Iranian nation.”
Referring to his meeting with General Nejat (A commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps) prior to the rejection of his candidacy, Ahmadinejad said: “I have already talked about it extensively. The essence of his views was that ‘don’t do anything to put us in a position where we have to counter revolutionary and Hezbollahi forces.”
Ahmadinejad stressed that the reason behind the rejection of his candidacy is clear, but that the Guardian Council had not yet offered any explanations.
As for the unity of Iranian governance, he said: “We had been in this situation before where all three arms of the government (Executive, Judiciary and Legislative) were from the same political faction, but no positive results came out of it.
“Success is in having a clear manifesto, strong management, observing requirements of a logical and wise governance and the support of all the people, otherwise factions themselves have thousands of problems and rivalries among themselves.
He said that as an observer over the past forty years, he can testify that none of the political factions has offered a cohesive and effective manifesto for the management of the country.
On his plans for reforms in the country’s governance, he said: “I have categorized current problems into three levels: Ideals (goals), (governing) structures and conducts.
“At the level of ideals, I believe that the ideals of the revolution have been lost. I mean we do not know where we want to go. It seems as if governance that was the means to each ideal has been transformed into goals. We have got to reassess these ideals and reach a national consensus over them. Structures are to realize those ideals. The most important ideal is national sovereignty and the revival of the right to self-determination, freedom and justice.
“Every structure should have its own specifications. What I said goes beyond the two (Constitutional) powers and includes the backbone of the system of decision-making in the country. There should be a balance of authority and responsibility, a certain procedure at all levels and that they should be brief and transparent. This does not exist at the moment. While the country needs a national and comprehensive view of issues, the parliament’s attitude is local and the government’s attitude is regional. The extent of authority should match the level of responsibility.
“On the third category, where we head towards freedom, justice, dignity and progress, naturally attitudes should match ideals. They should be capable of delivering and above all, authorities should be the products of the will of the people.
“Governments have no function but execute the will of the people, but unfortunately in the world and particularly in Iran, structures (governance) have legitimized themselves against the will of people. These reforms are not limited to one or two constitutional arms but it should happen.
“If management, ideals and the appointment of people are not done properly, there will be no progress and nothing will be done.”
Ahmadinejad pointed out to the political, economic and social prospect of Iranians in the coming four years.
He said: “The nation is unified. There is no polarity among them apart from who they vote for. But there is considerable polarity among powerful factions and politicians. The future is bright. I can see that the nation has decided to move forward to the zenith of ideals, but this requires passing a certain path, and I believe they are doing it intelligently.
“Iran is the land of talents, culture, endless wealth and history. After all, we have been a nation for 7,000 years. We have seen hundreds of ups and downs, experienced situations much, much more difficult and complicated than this, but have witnessed that the nation has sailed through them with its unity and belief in historical values.
“I believe today Iranians are moving fast the sign of which is their level of awareness. You can see that the speed and level of solidarity and awareness is unmatched. All this tell us that positive events will happen to the benefit of the nation and their will and the situation will change completely.”
Pointing out to Ebrahim Raisi’s approach towards the countries of the region, Ahmadinejad said: “Two points should be considered. Iranians do not fit into the political categories of reformist or conservative. The Iranian nation is extremely reformist and equally adhere to its historical beliefs. It is for these reasons that the Iranian culture has created a continuous trend in the world.
“There is no alternative but friendship and brotherhood among countries and nations of the region. We should all respect each other’s integrity, avoid interfering in one another’s affairs and avoid attempting dominance in the region.
Ahmadinejad said that his relations with some neighboring countries have faced certain limitations but he really likes them. He said: “I did not expect (them) to immediately reply to my messages although I hoped they would. I am certain that we all want peace in the region, but it requires collective co-operation and help.”