l WHATEVER the outcome of yesterday's elections in Iran it is obviously in everyone's interests that such elections should take place rather than that an unelected hierarchy of religious leaders should run the country indefinitely. Or is it? This self-evident truth is apparently not shared by President Bush who on Thursday condemned the Iranian elections as failing to meet the basic requirements of democracy. No one will pretend that Iran runs its elections in the same way that most Westernstyle democracies run theirs but Iran is not a Western country, a point that seems to elude Mr Bush completely. It is true that the list of candidates yesterday had been vetted by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and by the so-called Council of Guardians but even so there is a wider choice of parties and points of view than in many elections held elsewhere in the world. But it is also true that any attempt to reform Iran's system of government lock, stock and barrel would bring chaos rather than progress. If Mr Bush ever looks back he should do so to the last time the United States intefered in Iranian affairs and to the consequences of 1979 that the country is still living with. Even by his own limited standards Mr Bush's attempt to dismiss the value of the Iranian election is deplorable. Power is in the hands of the unelected few he said, Iran's rulers have denied the right to stand to popular reformers and women who have done so much for the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran. While there is some truth is this criticism, it runs contrary to the praise that the Presidnet has lavished on Egypt and Saudi Arabia for the minimalist progress that they have made towards Western-style democracy. It also reveals the worrying weakness of Mr Bush's drive for democracy in the world; he thinks that there is only one model whereas the very basis of democratic process must surely be that it respects the inherited traditions of a nation.
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