Presidential elections in Iran – to worry or not to worry

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won the election, according to the poll results so far. In fact, the Iranian electoral commission has already announced that he has won by about 63% of the vote, thus avoiding runoff elections. Is this a disturbing message to the future of the country and its democracy? What about the world?

Were the elections rigged?

Unfortunately, yes, they were. The election campaigns were rigged, to begin with. As BBC noted, some of President Ahmadinejad’s opponents had had problems getting permission to hold rallies: While former President Khatami was still a candidate, one provincial governor refused permission for a visit, on the rather transparent grounds that he would cause traffic jams!

The election results were rigged, too, of course, and they were rigged in the best possible way – by announcing a victory that is not as resounding as the mainstream media describe it. As much as 63% of the vote, which is Mr. Ahmadinejad’s result in the elections, according to official results, is tending to be considered resounding by official results in today’s political elections in democracies because it is still way behind the more than 70% of the vote to Mr. Medvedev in Russia, let alone the more than 80% of the vote to Mr. Lukashenko in Belarus.

Meanwhile, my view is that less than about 60% of the vote to Mr. Ahmadinejad would urge the western world together with watchdogs and the opposition to push for recount of the ballots, this time under a stricter scrutiny which is never welcoming to the Islamic leadership in that beautiful country. That hypothesis resembles, yet in a slightly different way, last year’s elections in Zimbabwe where Mr. Tsvangirai, President Mugabe’s main opponent, was denied the Presidency when the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) counted less than 50% of the vote to him which resulted in a Presidential run-off before which Mr. Tsvangirai had withdrown because of a lot of repression to his supporters and him.

In other words, a little less – or a little more – than 50% of the vote to a supposedly reasonable opponent or a supposedly dictatorial incumbent respectively in an allegedly undemocratic country – as Iran is considered to be – is usually considered a clear rig, according to the history of such elections so far, so I think that the Islamic leaders in Iran have done their best to hide the truth but apparently they couldn’t hide it from the people.

Few were the Presidential candidates

Besides, of around 300 potential candidates for President, the Guardian Council approved of just four people to run for President.

A glance at the political system of Iran: The Guardian Council has the power to approve of all the bills passed by the Parliament or veto them if it considers them inconsistent with the Constitution and Islamic law, and can bar potential candidates from running for the Presidency, the Assembly of Experts and the Parliament, or in other words all statewide political positions.

The wide executive power that the six theologians appointed by the Supreme Leader, who is now Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the six jurists who are nominated by the Judiciary and approved by the Parliament, undermines the Iranian President’s power to such an extent that it is next to ridiculous to regard the Iranian President the way one regards the U.S. President. It also undermines democracy because the Guardian Council can bar from running for a statewide political position anyone from whom they allegedly wouldn’t benefit, or even worse – one who would try to bring real change to Iran, by saying that that person isn’t consistent with the Constitution and Islamic law.

In fact, the Iranian people has an unofficial, yet very strong, Presidency – which consists of the Guardian Council, half of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – and an official, yet very weak, Presidency controlled by conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian people

I think that the announced results are worrysome to the Iranian people only. They – the opposition and its supporters in particular – are the ones who will have to be the most concerned about the results because it is they who will live in a country that is under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, and it is they who are allegedly denied democracy, judging by the surprising results. The Iranian president has already brought the Iranian people nothing but struggling economy, government overspending, high inflation and high unemployment which are among their most serious worries, according to results from the opinion polls. And, last but not least, Mr. Ahmadinejad has further isolated the country from the rest of the world not with his advocacy for Iran’s nuclear program as much as with his rather ridiculous feelings about Israel and the Holocaust during the Second World War. He has always said that there was no such thing as Holocaust during the Second World War and regards Israel as a fictive and racist state.

The world

Taking into consideration the political system in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I think that the world has benefitted from these results for the most part at the expense of the Iranian people. The Iranian President is actually not much more than a talking head, who is heavily influenced by the Islamic leadership in his homeland, so as one who doesn’t live in Iran and has nothing to do with that country – taking into consideration the current political system – I would prefer an Iranian President who – through his statements – would send a more trustworthy message to the world about Iran’s ambitions, whatever they are, rather than be infatuated with his charisma, for example.

It’s all about the system

With the current political system in Iran, I think that there can hardly be any change whose impact would be positive to both the Iranian people and the outside world, unless the Islamic leadership’s views about Islam change to a more liberal direction. However, this is very unlikely to happen, as one(s) who get(s) a great portion of power is/are usually rather unwilling to cede it. Therefore, I think that all – the Iranian and non-Iranian people – will be satisfied, if the political system in Iran changes to a greater relying on a secular system. It’s up to the Iranian people to have their say on the system though because it is they who live there, and it is they who know what’s best for them. That’s how a democracy works.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Presidential elections in Iran – to worry or not to worry

  1. Hi, good post!

    I would recommend “Hidden Iran. Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic” by Ray Takeyh. It is a wonderful read, in my opinion, and reveals a lot about the psychological and political reality in the Islamic Republic (in fact, I have the book and can give it to you). Very often, the Western world fails to understand the Middle East and the vital role that religion plays in it, especially in a theocracy with such strong ideological determination. Sometimes, a theologian is indeed better suited to make predictions regarding factional politics in the region than a political analyst. Ahmadinejad’s reelection, then, came as no surprise for many. The mere fact the the Guardian Council has the power to veto parliamentary legislation and thus modify the decisions of the elected branches of government, shows there’s not much room for change.

    As far as Democracy is concerned, it’s impossible for me to be convinced that the election of either of the competing leaders would be a manifestation of democratic principles. In any case, international conflicts are inevitable, as both leaders perceive the conflict with US and Israel as inevitable and view Islam as the instrumental force for Iranian resistance against foreign influence.

  2. You are making a really interesting point here: that “sometimes a theologian is indeed better suited to make predictions regarding factional politics in the region than a political analyst.” Iran definitely counts in your “sometimes.” I would like you to give me that book – it sounds interesting.

    “In any case, international conflicts are inevitable, as both leaders perceive the conflict with US and Israel as inevitable and view Islam as the instrumental force for Iranian resistance against foreign influence.”

    True, but in the meantime (although, in politics, there are sometimes exceptions) people with different views from these will not be let to compete because the Guardian Council will bar them from running on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Constitution and Islamic law. For example, of all of the 300 and something potential presidential contenders, only four were allowed to participate in the elections, which is pretty dubious.

    Other part of the puzzle is to be scrutinized. Back in the 1980s, when Mr. Mousavi was the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic, the President was… Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

  3. Pingback: Back to Iran and its nuclear program ‘for peaceful purposes’ « Evolution is the key!

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