BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday called the U.S. election a "battleground for capitalists" while speaking at a democracy forum a day after President Barack Obama was re-elected.
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 U.S.," 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."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gestures at the Bali Democracy Forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia,Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Credit: AP
The price tag for the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign was the highest ever, soaring beyond $2 billion.
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."
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (R) shakes hand with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (L) during the welcome ceremony of the fifth Bali Democracy Forum in Nusa Dua on November 8, 2012. The fifth Bali Democracy Forum has attracted record numbers of heads of state and government, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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 U.S. and European Union have hit Iran hard with economic sanctions as a result of those concerns.
Iran has also long been criticized 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 the U.N.'s human rights expert on Iran.
The country erupted into violence three years ago when pro-democracy protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the election of Ahmadinejad, calling it bogus and rigged.
Meanwhile on Thursday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised Indonesia as a Muslim nation with a thriving democracy, adding it was also encouraging to see countries like 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," he added.
The fifth Bali Democracy Forum is being attended by 11 heads of state, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.