A Different Islamic Constitution; Transparent Elections and a Healthy Turnout

By Nour Rida

Tehran – With the nearing of the parliamentary elections in Iran, anti-Iranian news outlets have rushed to attack the electoral system in Iran and underscore that the disqualification of most candidates was decided based on their loyalty to the system. Mainstream media tried to put this in the context of disqualifying Reformist candidates only. This is not unprecedented. Let us remind that in June 2017, when Iran witnessed the presidential debates between the current Reformist president Hassan Rouhani and the Principalist candidate back then Seyed Ebrahim Raeesi, media outlets also rushed into suggesting that the “undemocratic” system will not allow the Reformists to win, claiming that Raeesi coming into office would mean the end of diplomacy and international relations for Iran. Rouhani won the elections.

Iran elections: a different Islamic constitution

The nationwide votes for the parliament and the midterm election of the Assembly of Experts will be held simultaneously on Friday. A total of 7,148 candidates, including dozens of Iranians from the religious minorities, are running for the parliament. There are 290 seats in the parliament up for grabs. The lawmakers are elected for a 4-year term, with no limitation for the incumbent or former parliamentarians to run again.

Parliamentary elections in Iran go as far back as 1906 and the Constitutional Revolution, calling for a Constitutional Monarchy. Post-Islamic Revolution however, Parliament is called the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and it passes laws within a very different Constitution; one based on Islamic Sharia Law.

As with the previous round, the major rivaling camps are those of Principlists and Reformists. In the last legislative elections, the Hope List comprising Reformist candidates secured relative majority at the parliament after winning 122 seats over two rounds of elections. In all, the Reformist camp together with moderate candidates took 137 seats against 120 seats that went to the Principlists.

Part of the fair elections also is that Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Armenians and Assyrians are getting ready to cast their ballots in Iran’s eleventh parliamentary elections. Under the Constitution, there are five reserved seats in the legislature for Iran’s religious minorities.

One week before Iranians are expected to head to the polls for the country’s 11th parliamentary elections, the interior minister says inspection teams assigned by the ministry are comprehensively monitoring the electoral process against any potential fraudulent activity.

According to IRNA, the observer teams have been watchful of the candidates’ electoral engagement and the behavior of those associated with them over the past month.

A healthy turnout

Western mainstream media outlets claim that much of the country’s youth, particularly in the capital Tehran, plan to stay at home, foreshadowing what’s expected to be the lowest voter turnout in years.

But this is a judgment from afar. Many young people particularly in Tehran, despite being upset with the economic situation which is part of an economic crisis swiping across the region, have said they will take part in the elections. Others said they prefer to abstain from voting, but that is part of any normal elections isn’t it?  Also, Tehran is the capital of a country of 80 million people at least, and the turnout of elections in the capital is usually 35 to 40 percent for multiple reasons. First of all the low turnout in Tehran is due to the long voting process and the lack of interaction between voters and candidates, as experts note. It is not the best way to evaluate the elections of a country by looking at its metropolis or capital. All other cities count too, especially in a big country geographically and demographically speaking. 

Also concerning Tehran, there is no real connection between the voter and the candidate, unlike other cities across the country. In addition, the lack of TV debates makes it less interesting than presidential elections, which is normal as well. Moreover, experts point out that while Reformists do not do well across the country, they do much better in the capital.

Western governments, media and think tanks do not recognize that all major Iranian factions are disgusted with the regime in Washington. The turnout of people participating in the funeral of General Soleimani and the millions who poured into the streets on a snowy day to take part in the rallies on the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution says a lot. Simultaneously, some media outlets claim that the assassination of Soleimani will probably tilt the turnout towards Principlists, but that is a miscalculation because General Soleimani was popular among all Iranian political groups and camps and hence that will not have any impact on the attitude of the voters. Western governments topped by the American regime should end their miscalculations.

According to Iranian experts, turnout for parliamentary elections throughout the country over the past four decades has been between 50 and 70 percent. If the turnout is significantly below 50 percent then that would be seen as unhealthy.

Iran vs. US elections; transparent vs. non-transparent

The American administration also criticized the disqualification of the candidates in Iran, accusing the Islamic Republic of being “undemocratic”.

On this note, the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday urged U.S. officials to focus on fixing their own country’s “nontransparent” and undemocratic system before calling into question the legitimacy of elections in other nations.

Abbas Mousavi, spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters that the U.S. system “ignores the vote of the majority of people” and said “American officials had better address questions” about the country’s elections from the US public.

Mousavi appeared to be referring to the Electoral College, the archaic system the US uses to elect its president every four years. Two of the last three presidents—George W. Bush and Donald Trump—have lost the popular vote yet won the presidential election thanks to the Electoral College.

However, the Guardian Council states that the vetting process was done fairly, pointing to the fact that both Reformists and Principlists were among the disqualified.

In an exclusive interview with Fars news agency on Sunday, the spokesman for Iran’s election supervisory body, the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei said, “Despite the enemies’ false propaganda, and wrong allegations by some people inside the country, elections in Iran have never been symbolic and ceremonial and the Guardian Council, as a national judge of elections…, will not enter any deal on people’s right in the face of political pressure or in order to appease [political] factions.”

Kadkhodaei also noted that the Guardian Council approves qualification of nominees only based on the Constitution and believes that allocation of quotas for various political factions lacks legitimacy.

“Definitely, the Guardian Council assures the noble Iranian nation that it has made all necessary preparations to guarantee healthy and competitive elections, and will fulfill its supervisory duties with more accuracy,” Kadkhodaei said.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called for a high turnout in the upcoming elections, saying a lively vote guarantees the Iranian nation’s security and contributes to efforts towards resolving the problems.

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