Iran's election boycott an 'effective tactic' for reform

Regarding Abdul Said and Nathan Funk's March 25 Opinion piece "Reformists primer: Never boycott an election": Mr. Said and Mr. Funk have identified useful methods by which opponents of authoritarian governments can contest elections called to reinforce the rulers' legitimacy.

But in criticizing the Iranian election boycott, they are wrong to say that that is never an effective tactic in a nonviolent struggle for democracy. In 1982, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa galvanized public support when it organized a boycott of the white government's elections for a second, parallel parliament representing Indian and mixed-race citizens, but excluding blacks. This helped set the stage for a relentless new phase of the movement, which imposed mounting economic, physical, and psychological costs on apartheid, eventually destroying it.

"Inspiring people to demand" democracy can help delegitimize an oppressive regime, but withdrawing the people's political consent is not enough. Also necessary is a sustained nonviolent strategy that mobilizes the civilian population to disrupt the government's means of control and shatter the internal and international support on which it depends, including the backing of its armed defenders. This is what happened in the Philippines in 1986, Chile in 1988, Eastern Europe in 1989, and Serbia in 2000. It can also happen in Iran.
Jack DuVall
President, International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Canada leads global AIDS fight

Regarding your March 25 article "Canada's new plan for generic-drug sales": The struggle in the Canadian Parliament to establish legislation for the export of direly needed medications to fight HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria marks a stark contrast to the actions of the US government on this vital issue. The Bush administration's hopeful promise to fight global AIDS has been continuously weakened by their concessions to the major pharmaceutical lobby. The priority of public health concerns in global trade recognizes the fact that the global HIV pandemic will soon trump all familiar business and political concerns. The Canadian government is at least demonstrating an appreciation of the urgency of pursuing these discussions, an example the US government should sincerely heed.
Aaron E. Boyle
New York

SEC rule change not enough

In your March 29 editorial "Tyco and Executive Excess" you state that a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule change "would allow shareholders to put their own choices up for executive board members." Our expressed concern is that the proposed rule, with its insurmountable hurdles, would prove to be a sham to the investing public. It will be touted by the media as added shareholder protection when, in reality, it would provide none, and the SEC will not revisit the issue for many years.
Les Greenberg
Culver City, Calif.
Chairman, Committee of Concerned Shareholders

Try six-day school weeks

Regarding your March 23 article "Rural schools try longer days, four-day weeks": I would suggest a different way for schools in Idaho and Oregon to economize. The well-educated students of Japan attend school six days a week. This could eliminate the overtiring problem associated with longer days, and also the need for Friday day care, and allow for longer vacations. Money required to heat the school building, a major expense where I live, would be better utilized by having it vacant one day per week rather than three.
Miriam Herwig
Randolph, Vt.

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