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Organic change
Freedom and democracy can never be exempt from the process which creates them

September 3, 2003
The Iranian

There's a lot of talk about who would displace leadership in Iran once a change occurs. The discussion, while well-intentioned, is pre-mature by bypassing conditional issues concerning transition typology. A slew of authors such as Samuel Huntington, Philippe Schmitter, and Guillermo O'Donnell.have analyzed democratic transition.

Different forms of transition will concede different forms of leaders. The process and outcome of transitions is a lengthy analysis. However, given the current battle in and outside of Iran it is worth noting three different forms of transition from authoritarian states, transformation, replacement and rupture.

In transformations those in power play the decisive role in ending the regime thus changing into a system of democratic governance. In the mid-90's, for example, the Nigerian government slowly began conceding power to democratic elements from the top-down by liberalizing the system of governance until it completely relinquished power and placed itself into the background.

Similarly, an Iranian transformation would occur once conservative elements surrender power to reformist elements. Currently there are two bills in front of the Council of Guardians, which if passed, would provide Khatami and subsequent presidents the power to veto any law or judicial finding held in contravention with the Iranian Constitution.

With respect to leadership, a process of transformation would not completely oust the repressors. Rather conservative factions would retain enough measure of power in order to force reformists and opposition forces to constantly negotiate change.

In South Africa, for example, apartheid was ended once Afrikaners reached a settlement with the African National Congress. In such case, the Afrikaners were able to negotiate an agreement such that they were displaced in power yet held enough sway to negotiate political amnesty from prosecution.

The second form of transition, replacement, involves a process in which internal opposition elements gain strength and eventually topple the government, much like a revolution. Replacement, unlike transformation, assumes that reformers are weak. As a result of their weakness, the dominant element becomes oppositional forces which gain enough power to supplant the regime.

Nevertheless, similar to the Iranian revolution, replacement is followed by a period of negotiation and conflict amongst opposition forces in which a tenuous period exists which could cause deeper fractions within the state or eventually lead to chaos, such as in Uganda after the ouster of Idi Amin, to which the Ugandan People's Congress manipulated elections to the detriment of other oppositional forces that subsequently resulted in the 1981civil war.

However, assuming that replacement succeeds in democratization, conservative elements in Iran would almost be completely removed from power with those who remained utilized to facilitate some stability.

Lastly, transitions can occur after foreign intervention, what has been noted by Alexandra Barahona de Brita as "transition by rupture". In the case of Iran, foreign intervention would be a result of total defeat of the government's military, but would also defer power to establish governance by the victor rather then the people.

In times when military intervention has succeeded in producing democratic regimes, such as in Italy and Germany, the occupying governments left the countries and people free to adopt democratic constitutions and structures. Even when we consider Japan, democratic governance was modeled after previous Japanese parliamentarians.

However, there is a clear history, Haiti, the Philippines, Iraq (pre-Saddam), Afghanistan, etc. where military intervention and occupation failed to produce democratic governance and resulted in grave dictatorial regimes. Therefore, the nature of military intervention is similarly unpredictable.

In the case of Iran, successful occupation would foster democratization. However, given the complicated nature of the Iranian government, it is not likely that the government would be overturned completely, specifically in that a complete overhaul would cause chaos to occupying forces.

Moreover, there is a strong movement toward democracy that exists both amongst the people and amongst many members of the Majlis which would be utilized by occupying forces to develop true democratic governance. On the other hand, at its worst, military intervention and occupation could result in an authoritarian Iran possibly fractured across ethnic and religious lines backed by such leaders as the secessionist Azeri, Chehregani.

History has demonstrated that the greatest and most stable democracies arose organically rather then through imposition, primarily because force can never replace deology. It is important when we talk about Iranian leadership in the future that we emember that leadership differs depending on transition type. As transition becomes less and less indigenous, so do the prospects for a stable and democratic Iran.

That being said, if we as Iranians truly want to be lead, we ought not to do so on the basis of one man, but rather one Constitution. A man can never substitute the coherent will of the people, which in this case is to be free to choose their own leaders rather then have a leader chosen to free them. Freedom and democracy can never be exempt from the process which creates them and the concepts of transition deserve more thought then we have given >>> News & politics forum

Nema Milaninia is a Graduate Student, International Human Rights Law at the American University in Cairo.

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By Nema Milaninia




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