Iranian Elections: Theocracy, not Democracy.
Iranian Theocracy: Islamism is Incompatible with Democracy.
As ‘elections’ in Iran approach (February the 26th) it’s well to take stock.
Not so long ago, well in 2010, Labour Candidate for Chippenham (2015), Andy Newman argued (Socialist Unity),
Iran simply is a constitutional democracy. I refer Dave to the discussion of the 1979 constitution in Ervand Abrahamian’s book “A History of Modern Iran” Cambridge, 2008. pages 162 to 169. Abrahamian is no apologist for the government, and his book is dedicated to the “memory of more than three hundred political prisoners hanged in 1988 for refusing to feign belief in supernatural”. Abrahamian discusses how the constitution tempers the power of the Guardian Council.
The electorate, all women and men over 16 years old, can vote for the president, as well as for members of the the Majlis (parliament), and provincial and district councils. The Majlis has authority to pass laws, scrutinise the activity of the executive, approve or veto the president’s choices of ministers, debate any issue, and appoint people to the Guardian Council. Indeed over the last 30 years the majlis has acted as a much more substantive parliamentary body in holding the executive to account than the Palace of Westminster has.
The maturity of the democracy is shown in the way that two loose political parties, the Radicals and Conservatives have developed, that government initiatives are often modified or defeated by the Majlis, and that contested transitions of power have been effected by means of democratic vote.
The paradox that this democratic infrastructure exists alongside the concept of “jurists’ guardianship”velayet-e faqeh derived from the revolutionary Islamic theory of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini explains a lot about modern Iran. The Islamic revolution was not per se a religious one, but one that combined a complex mixture of nationalism, political populism and religious radicalism.
This ‘paradox‘ is getting a parading just now.
The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, will not be allowed to stand in this month’s election in Iran, the clerical vetting body said on Wednesday, in a blow to reformist forces in the country.
Hassan Khomeini, 43, the first member of the Khomeini family to register for polls and an ally of President Hassan Rouhani, lost an appeal to the body against a ban. The setback comes at a time of growing rivalry between reformists and conservatives stirred by a deal with world powers that lifted economic sanctions against Tehran as part of a nuclear agreement.
Hardliners fear Iranian voters will now be more inclined to reward reformist and moderate candidates in Feb. 26 elections to the 290-seat parliament and the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for choosing the next Supreme Leader.
The Guardian Council, a clerical vetting body responsible for overseeing all elections, excluded thousands of parliamentary hopefuls and hundreds of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, leaving a field mostly of conservatives.
You will find scant reference to the details of this “Vetting” in the house journal of the anti-imperialism of fools, Coutnerpunch. They are more concerned, as, criticising US imperialism first obliges, in the Washington Tehran nuclear deal.
Franklin Lamb for example concentrates on this,
Notes from Tehran. February the 12th.
Many relatively moderate candidates were rejected by hard-liners during the vetting phase. Several of these blocked candidates support President Hassan Rouhani, a key architect of the Iran nuclear deal that they support.
So-called moderate supporters of Iran’s President Rohani may have a major impact on this month’s elections and bring changes to Iran. The Iranian public is sophisticated about what JCPOA is likely to mean for them. Recent polls show that there has been an approximately ten percent drop in public support for the agreement.
It is left to Jane Green in the Morning Star to expose the nature of this ‘Islamic Democracy’.
…the coming elections in Iran are little more than the veneer of democracy, as the ability to stand is tightly controlled by the Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei.
Elections to the Majlis (parliament) are held every four years and prominent figures hoping to appear on the ballot paper need to determine beforehand whether Khamenei and his inner circle of advisers will oppose their candidacy.
It is said that the Supreme Leader does not explicitly advise anyone against running, but his office or other high-ranking officials will often reveal his views on specific cases.
Also, when candidates register their names, the Guardian Council has to qualify them based on several criteria, notably their full “practical” loyalty to the Supreme Leader and their recognition of his authority over all matters of the state.
Finally, once elections are complete, the Guardian Council is solely responsible for endorsing the final result, despite sharing supervision over the vote counting process with the Interior Ministry.
Through these methods the Islamic Republic can claim that the elections are free and fair because everyone is eligible to vote.
While attempting to control the outcome of the elections, the regime’s leaders are keen for a massive turnout for the contest in four weeks’ time and have mobilised their entire publicity machine.
The turnout in this election has assumed significance since it will be used as a measure of the popularity of the regime and a test of its political stability.
However this disguises the high degree of manipulation which precedes the selection of those who appear on the ballot paper at all.
Given the conservative nature of the regime in Iran and the fears of many hardliners that Rouhani is “too reformist,” there is every chance that conservatives will take the opportunity to further squeeze out the limited voices for change which there may be in the Majlis.
Of 3,000 candidates put forward by reformists, only 30 have been allowed to stand by the Guardian Council, a mere one in 100 of those wishing to stand.
It is worth remembering that these are candidates who are deemed “reformist” within the very narrow confines of that term in Iranian politics.
There are no candidates opposed to the regime, standing for the rights of women or actively promoting the right of Iranian workers to engage in free and open trade union activity.
Persistent reports in Iranian opposition media indicate that the powerful Sepah Pasdaran (the Guards Corps) are confident that at least 180 out of the 290 seats of the new Majlis will be filled with their candidates, carefully selected from within the ranks of their commanders and ideologists.
In total 40 per cent of the 12,000 hopefuls for parliamentary election, including a significant number of MPs in the outgoing Majlis, have failed to qualify.
Those disqualified include Ali Motahari, a persistent critic of the hard-line Islamists in the regime, and Rasoul Montajabnia, the vice-president of the pro-reform Etemad Melli Party founded by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the two reformist candidates during the 2009 presidential candidates.
Others excluded are Majid Farahani, the head of the pro-reform Nedaye Iranian Party, and Akbar Alami, a former reformist member of parliament.
Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at Tehran University, stated that the reformists now expected the president to step forward.
“According to the constitution, as the president and the country’s second power [after the leader] Mr Rouhani should supervise the implementation of the constitution. So now everyone’s expecting him to protest against the wide disqualifications.”
Jamshid Ahmadi, assistant general secretary of solidarity group Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir), has called into question the legitimacy of the elections.
“It is clear that many potential candidates have been excluded due to their political opinions,” he said.
“That hardly makes for an electoral process that can, in any normal sense, be described as free and fair.
“Until real opposition candidates are allowed to stand and the Iranian regime cleans up its act on human rights the elections will be little more than the illusion of democracy.”
Islamist Theocracy is incompatible with democracy.