15 Brown J. World Aff. 25 (2008-2009)
Democracy and the Politics of Parliamentary Elections in Iran

handle is hein.journals/brownjwa15 and id is 25 raw text is: Democracy and the Politics of
Parliamentary Elections in Iran
ABBAS MILANI                    MICHAEL McFAUL
Research Fellow                 Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution              Hoover Institution
TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IS AN intricate process, entailing a complicated set of internal
and external, mental, and material conditions. It minimally requires a ruling class that
is bereft of legitimacy and lacks the requisite resolution to rule-one beset with chronic
division in its ranks. This division and irresolution must be accompanied by unity and
resolution amongst the ruled. Indeed, a crucial political prerequisite for transition to
democracy is a citizenry that is dedicated to the rules of a democratic polity and to an
opposition leadership that offers a coherent plan of action.
There has been something of a consensus amongst social scientists that democratic  25
transition demands a vibrant and viable middle class with a certain level of education
and income.1 Some social scientists, for example, suggest $7,000 as the minimum
necessary annual income for such a class. Democracy needs the rudiments of a civil
society and a network of autonomous institutions capable of performing a dual set of
interrelated functions. It must be able to socialize the citizens in the rules of a demo-
cratic social contract, while protecting the same citizenry from the excesses of the
often overreaching power of the state.
Even a cursory look at Iranian society on the eve of the 14 March 2008 parlia-
mentary elections shows a discordant image of a society dangling in the long limbo of
warranted but unrealized change, a society where most of the conditions for a transi-
tion to democracy-save a cogent leadership in the opposition-have been realized
but no such transition has taken place. Not only is the country still in the grip of a
despotic elite, but in the aftermath of the March 2008 parliamentary election-the
28th electoral ritual in the 29-year-old history of the Islamic Republic of Iran2-when
ABBAS MILANI is the Director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University where he
is also a Research Fellow at Hoover Institution.
MICHAEL McFAUL is the Director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of
Law at Stanford where he is also a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Copyright  2008 by the Brown Journal of World Affairs

FALL/WINTER 2008 - VOLUME XV, ISSUE i

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