The United States Monday labeled the Iranian presidential election "highly unrepresentative" and said it fell far short of minimum democratic standards. Officials downplayed conciliatory statements toward the United States by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of two candidates in the run-off election June 24.
The first round of the Iranian election last Friday was contested by seven candidates.
But U.S. officials noted that many other potential contenders, including all the women, who sought to run were excluded by the country's ruling clerics, and they say the election actually represents a step back from the more open political environment in the country in recent years.
A senior State Department official who spoke to reporters said it falls "very, very short" of minimum democratic standards when hundreds of would-be candidates are excluded, and there are such tight restrictions on the media and dissent.
He said what occurred Friday was at best a controlled, contested election, and that the United States is reluctant to call what is going on in Iran democratic. At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the Iranian people deserve better.
"The election process as a whole, from selectively choosing candidates who could run by an unelected clerical elite, to the conduct of the voting and next stages, strikes us as basically highly unrepresentative and certainly not responsive to what the Iranian people are looking for, which is more participation not less, more freedoms not less, and more democracy not less," Mr. Ereli says.
Spokesman Ereli said in a democratic system, the government responds to the wishes of the people, but that in Iran things are "going in the opposite direction" and counter to the democratic trend in the rest of the region.
He cited in addition to the "disturbing" circumstances of the election, the Tehran government's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, support for Middle East terrorism and what he termed an "equivocal" position on links to al-Qaida.
Mr. Ereli dismissed, as campaign rhetoric, conciliatory remarks toward the United States by Mr. Rafsanjani, the country's former president and one of the two candidates who will contest the June 24 run-off.
He said the Bush administration will not put much credence in such statements until the time that elected leaders in Tehran make clear public pronouncements on the issue, and take clear action to change policies the United States sees as threatening.