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Theocracy to Democracy
... in 10 steps

Behshad Hastibakhsh
November 25, 2004

A quarter of century after the 1979 revolution, the conundrum of Iranian politics is marked by distinct characteristics that include:

-- Over politicization of society and lack of political education
-- Cult of personality and the tendency to worship leaders
-- Cult of personality evolves into overconfidence and arrogance among the ruling few
-- Historic phobia of others results in social intolerance (us vs. them mentality)
-- Social distrust inside and outside the polity
-- Centralization of power prevents progress in institution building and weakens civil society
-- Lack of ideology
-- Social polarization between opposing groups
-- Constant political uncertainty  
-- Lack of innovative political solution

By identifying the symptoms and source of political backwardness, it is imperative to present a political alternative to the current theocratic regime in Iran. The new political alternative must be distinct and rich in inclusiveness, tolerance, democratic ideas.  

To bring forth change, we have the alternative of working towards peaceful transition from theocracy to democracy in ten steps:

1. New Leadership at the Helm of Democratic Opposition: To break away the vicious circle of historic phobia, social polarization, and distrust, it is essential to retire the old guard of Iranian politics with gratitude, and entrust a new breed of Iranians technocrats with leadership. 

2. Realignment of Political Parties: To unify opposition forces against the ruling theocracy in Iran, we have no choice other than converging hundreds of political groups into a handful of moderate parties. The realignment process requires full adherence and commitment to multi-party system, tolerance, and secularism.

3. Coalition of Democratic Parties: It is important to form a coalition of political parties in the spirit of national reconciliation. This requires realigned political parties to seize ideological campaigns, while they maintain distinct institutional structures. 

4. Social Trust: To build the foundation of a healthy democratic society, it is required to establish social trust between the 'governors' (the new breed of political leaders) and the 'governed' (the people).  

5. National Reconciliation: Our salvation lies in uniting democratic opposition, pursing active steps towards national reconciliation and overcoming historic differences.

6. Coalition Government in Exile:  National reconciliation would be pave the way towards the formation of a Coalition Government in Exile that would consists of realigned political parties representing moderate left (social democratic), center (liberal), and right (conservative) views.

7. Media's Role: The Iranian media in exile needs to readjust itself in a new role towards reconciliation of national interests. The mass media would have to adhere to highest journalistic standards in support of the Iranian Coalition Government in Exile.

8. Civil Disobedience: The new Government in Exile would seek international recognition and legitimacy, as it would lead and coordinate the non-violent civil disobedience campaign against the Islamic Government of Iran.

9. Democratic Elections: Civil disobedience would bring the ruling theocracy in Iran to its knees, and the government would eventually concede to people's will for free, democratic and multi party elections under independent international supervision.

10. Referendum:  Following democratic elections of a new parliament, Iranians could vote in a national referendum to choose the future system of government (i.e. constitutional monarchy vs. republic) whereby a constitutional hereditary monarch or elected president would be entrusted with ceremonial roles of head of state. Iranians of all political stripes would be required to respect the referendum results based on a 50% +1 formula.

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