Khatami Expected To Steer Pragmatic Course During Second Term
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami won a second term in a electoral landslide on June 8. The reform-minded Khatami received unprecedented support 21.6 million votes, or about 77 percent of the ballots cast for a president seeking re-election. His closest rival, conservative former supply minister Ahmad Tavakoil, received 15 percent of the vote. EurasiaNet spoke to Gary Sick, director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, about the election results and reform possibilities in Iran. The transcript of the interview follows:
EurasiaNet: What do you expect President Khatami to do with his election mandate? During the campaign, he seemed to be hesitant about his candidacy. Was this a tactical maneuver, or do you think he's a genuinely reluctant leader?
Sick: I think his reluctance is genuine in the sense that I believe, as he said, he had been through a tunnel of crises for the last four years, and that he believed that this is actually going to continue, or perhaps even get worse, during the next four years. In fact, his wife has said publicly that he told her not to expect it to get any better during the second term.
I think he had genuine concerns that he could not easily satisfy the demands of many of his supporters. Younger people are especially impatient. They would like to see more action, see Khatami take a more confrontational position. But I think his belief is that the only way he is going to make any real progress with his reform program is to take a slow patient approach, and avoid the kind of outright confrontation that would give the hardliners an excuse to intervene with security forces.
Gary Sick served on the National Security Council staff during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations. He has written two books concerning Iran, including October Surprise: American Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. He is also director of Gulf 2000, an international research project on policy developments in the Persian Gulf.