CAIRO, June 10 — Supporters of President Mohammad Khatami's attempts
to create a freer, more
democratic Islamic republic in Iran said today that his overwhelming re-election victory should prompt his
conservative opponents to reassess their attempts to frustrate change.
"The election was a turning point because with such a high vote for
reform, the reform movement gets a fresh
voice and can pursue its plan more energetically and more steadily," said Karim Arghandehpour, a member of the
editorial board of the reformist daily Norouz.
The paper said the conservatives had only themselves to blame for such
a dismal showing, even failing to
nominate a candidate of their own.
"The first problem with the anti reformists is that they have wasted
the entire last four years," Norouz said in an
editorial. "Instead of improving their behavior, their ideas and their approach, they spent the last four years trying
to destroy the reformists. In doing so, they in fact destroyed themselves."
But the conservatives are already showing signs that they are not about
to roll over. Through their control of
various oversight institutions, the judiciary and state-run broadcasting, they have managed to block many of the
proposed changes, jailing prominent reformists and closing their newspapers.
One conservative official said he hoped Mr. Khatami's second term would
be marked by less freedom. "The
unrestrained freedom in the first term of office of President Khatami led to desecration of sanctities and insults to
personalities, including the president," said Hamidreza Taraqi, a member of the Islamic Coalition Society, who was
quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Today, in a continued mark of the conservatives' influence, the state-
run television made the recap of the final
results of Friday's election the last item on its newscast.
Mr. Khatami won 21.7 million of the 28.2 million votes, or 77 percent.
His closest challenger, Ahmad Tavakoli, an
economist and former labor minister, took 16.5 percent. There were eight other candidates.
With 42 million eligible voters, turnout was officially put at 68 percent,
lower than the 90 percent in 1997. But the
results even surpassed the surprise election that year, when Mr. Khatami, a cleric and former culture minister,
garnered 70 percent.
The first official reaction from the soft-spoken president was typically
low-key. In a statement late Saturday, he
said the people of Iran have "reasonable demands" and expect the government to do more toward fulfilling their wishes.
"What is necessary for us, today and in the future, is to strengthen
the democratic system and to protect the people's
rights within a religious framework," the statement said. "It is also vital for us to recognize and define our economic
priorities and needs, as well as to solve the society's major concerns through correct and appropriate planning."
He asked for people to stick by him though, saying change would only
come "through their vigilance." He also said
change had to come through patience and moderation at all times.
Mr. Khatami is expected to take about two months to form a new government.
There were sporadic celebrations in cities throughout Iran, especially
by the young, who view Mr. Khatami as
their best hope for being released from the strictures of Islamic law. Police officers were sent out to limit the
festivities and to insure that they did not descend into clashes between Khatami supporters and conservatives.
Security forces mobilized in force in Qom, the center of Shiite Islamic
theology, where they banned a
midafternoon rally, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. In Mashhad, in northeastern Iran, celebrations led to
30 arrests, IRNA said.