Bali: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday ridiculed the expense of the US election a day after voters kept President Barack Obama for another four years, mocking the American process as a "battleground for capitalists" while speaking at a democracy forum.
Ahmadinejad, whose government has been criticised for human rights abuses and is subject to sanctions for its nuclear programs, told the forum in Indonesia that 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 $2 billion. Ahmadinejad's criticism contrasted with other gathered leaders' calls for more democracy and freedoms for citizens around the world.
As the two-day meeting opened, 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 is likely attending the event to try to find a place to fit in. And even if some Asian countries are not welcoming, the region as a whole is typically more accepting.
"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."
Ahmadinejad also called for US military bases to be dismantled worldwide and said the winner of the US election made no difference to him. "Coming or going, winning or losing is not important," he told reporters. "The important thing is the policy and behaviour. And this behaviour must be changed."
The international community fears Iran may be interested in possessing nuclear weapons, but the country has repeatedly said its uranium enrichment program is meant only for peaceful purposes. The US and European Union have hit Iran hard with economic sanctions as a result of those concerns.
"The IAEA has inspected our nuclear facilities and 10 officials have reported that there is no indication that (the) Iran nuclear program has directed to non-peaceful purposes," Ahmadinejad said.
The fifth Bali Democracy Forum is being attended by 11 heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.