Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the forum yesterday. Photo: AFP

Ahmadinejad slams US election as 'battleground for capitalists'

Iran leader says the polls were a 'battleground for capitalists' in which the rich minority rules over the majority

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday called the US election a "battleground for capitalists" while speaking at a democracy forum a day after President Barack Obama was re-elected to office.

He said democracy has become a system where the minority rules over the majority.

"Just take a look at the situation in Europe and the US," Ahmadinejad said during the meeting's opening day on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. "[An] election, which is one of the manifestations of the people's will, has become a battleground for the capitalists and an excuse for hasty spending."

The price tag for the 2012 US presidential campaign was the highest ever, soaring beyond US$2 billion (HK$15.5 billion).

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said mutual respect and diversity are the foundations of democracy.

"We need to encourage greater respect for different values, faiths and religious beliefs," Yudhoyono said.

"We should not allow irresponsible acts such as the defamation of religion to divide us."

Dinna Wisnu, an international political analyst from Indonesia's Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, said Ahmadinejad was likely attending the event to find a place to fit in, with Asia typically more accepting than the Middle East.

"Iran comes with its special agenda that has been planned as the country does not have a lot of friends in the Middle East," she said. "They are in a difficult position. If they are not trying to make friends in other regions, Iran will be alone."

The international community fears Iran may be interested in possessing nuclear weapons, but the country has repeatedly said its uranium enrichment programme is meant only for peaceful purposes. The US and European Union have hit Iran hard with economic sanctions as a result of those concerns.

Iran has also long been criticised for its human rights record, including the continued use of stoning as a method of capital punishment.

Increased internet crackdowns and the jailing of political prisoners and journalists were also recently highlighted in a report by a UN human rights expert on Iran.

Three years ago, pro-democracy protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the election of Ahmadinejad, calling it bogus and rigged.

Meanwhile yesterday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised Indonesia as a Muslim nation with a thriving democracy, adding it was also encouraging to see Myanmar undergo positive political reform. But he said more work needed to be done elsewhere.

"Unfortunately, we also saw how a 15-year-old Pakistani girl was shot as she promoted women's rights in her country," he said.

"Likewise, since 2003, the North Korean people can see but cannot speak; they have legs but cannot move. Human rights cannot be compromised there."

The fifth Bali Democracy Forum is being attended by 11 heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ahmadinejad hits out at big-spending U.S. election