Tehran (Rooz Online-IPS) As the election for the Assembly of Experts gets closer, a former leader of Iranian students contests the necessity of such a body and this despite the importance it should have for the Iranians.
“A regime that does not recognize and allow plurality, freedom, democracy for the society can not pretend to democracy and morality”, says a former leader of the Office For Consolidation Unity (OCU), Iran’s largest and most popular students organization.
In an interview with the pro reform internet newspaper “Rooz” (Day) edited in London and Paris, Mr. Abdollah Mo’meni, the spokesperson for the Advar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat, or the Alumni of the OCU argues that under the present Iranian political system, elections are no more than “parodies”, especially when it comes to the upcoming elections for the 82 embers Assembly of Experts.
A regime that does not recognize and allow plurality, freedom, democracy for the society can not pretend to democracy and morality.
Nevertheless, observing the importance this body can have in the life of Iranians, Mr. Mo’meni believes that the reformists should have planned a strong showing in these elections.
Mo’meni first spoke about the different roles of elections in developed and underdeveloped countries. In his view, “In underdeveloped countries, because political parties and institutions are not yet strong, elections are important opportunities for democratic forces to strengthen their position with respect to the undemocratic ruling elite.”
“In the elections that have taken place since 1997”, adds Mo’meni, “important questions have been posed with respect to the government’s theoretical and practical foundations and the political system in Iran has been presented with important challenges. In election time, since people are more attuned to different messages and the government needs to bring the people into the scene, the government becomes more tolerant than other times. In fact one can say that these times create minimal opportunity for political currents to express the kinds of things that they cannot say at other times. In this sense, one can say opportunities elections create in societies like Iran can strengthen the civil society”.
Explaining his view, he adds: “During these times civil society organizations can enhance their position by communicating directly with people at the core of the society and understanding their true wants and needs, as well as organizing their resources and attracting new members”.
“If elections are real and pluralism and free choice of voters recognized, there is no doubt that going to the poll is fructuous for defenders of democracy and democratic structures as well as for political parties, but the experience of the participation of reformists in the power and the defeat of the reformist movement by stronger forces inside the Iranian political system shows that taking part in elections can not help democracy, for the simple reason that elections are just a farce”.
Going further about electoral structures in Iran, he says: “In conditions where taking part in elections is no help whatever for the path to democracy and at the same time the authoritarian power has no desire to organize elections that guarantee the minimum right of the citizens, participating in election farce is a declaration of obedience and fidelity to the ruling power, its policies and a confirmation of the disastrous situation of the nation”.
However, Mr. Mo’meni stipulates, participation in elections or boycotting them is not a definite strategy for any political force and it can be changed according to political conditions. “If conditions for true elections are present and the race between candidates is really open without interferences, it is natural to vote and boycotting elections is meaningless”.
Concerning the forthcoming elections for the Experts Assembly, a body usually reserved to the clerics and the only structure that has the power to remove the leader of he regime, -- although under present system, it can not do it given that the majority of the experts are on the payroll of he leader --, the student’s leader says: “The structure of elections in Iran is faulty. One cannot hope for a transition to democracy through the kind of 2-stage elections that we have in Iran, especially when it comes to the Council of Experts elections, one that presents more sensibilities and more complexities”.
With respect to the usual low-turnouts for the Council of Experts election, Mo’meni says, “The Council of Experts elections have been scheduled this year to coincide with the city council elections in order to conceal the low turnout that is usual for these elections. The low turnout is caused by the fact that people’s daily problems have no connection to the Council of Experts and who sits on that council. Actually this organization has no relation to democracy. So it is natural that people are unwilling to spend much energy and attention on the election of a body that has and undemocratic structure”.
In fact, according to Iranian Constitution, the leader is equal to all others Iranians in regards of laws. But the Experts revised the Constitution after they elected Mr. Ali Khameneh’i, then a junior cleric, to replace Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, who died on August 1989, making him both an ayatollah and the “absolute” leader from whom emanates converges all powers: He is the Supreme Commander of all armed forces, he directly controls the Judiciary, the Radio and Television and most of the media, he appoints members of he Council of Guardians… and above all, he has his own cabinet where all major decisions are made.
However, the same Constitution makes the Absolute Leader, or the Velayat Motlaqeh Faqih, the representative of God on earth and therefore places him above all laws, subjected only to the decision of the Experts, all of them “experts in religious matters”.
Explaining the futility of taking part in the Experts elections under the Iranian theocratic system and the reason of the people’s apathy for this event, Mr. Mo’meni says the people who must decide the competence of the leader and have the duty to remove or confirm him – and therefore normally these elections should represent a great importance for the voters, -- are in fact the leaders cronies, the members of the Council of the Guardians who are in charge of approving all candidates are not only designated by the leader but some are also among the members of the Experts Assembly.
If conditions for true elections are present and the race between candidates is really open without interferences, it is natural to vote and boycotting elections is meaningless. If not, elections are unworthy.
He regrets the “passivity and the indifference” of the reformists for these elections while the importance of the Experts Assembly should have prompted the reformists to a more active campaign in an effort to control this very sensitive institution, “despite the fact that the present electoral system would not let them any chance”.
Observing that the leader of the Iranian system has all powers concentrated in his hands, he therefore has “one foot on earth, deals with human problems” and because of that, the Experts Assembly must be reserved to clerics only, since they too, because of their role, deals with peoples problems “and not only religious matters”.
“Since the State has put ideological preconditions to the citizen for enjoying their rights, therefore, the people, to be able to get their rights, have to pretend obedience to the set conditions, the result is the more and more people pretend to be religious, faithful. The result is the situation we know, a moral that has been badly harmed; the human dignity crushed, and lies becoming a common virtue. A regime that does not recognize and allow plurality, freedom, democracy on the society can not pretend to democracy and morality”, he concludes. ENDS MO’MENI 211106
Editor’s note: The above interview was posted by Rooz on 19 November 2006.
Parts of the original interview from Farsi into English was provided by Rooz.