Paris, 14 March (IPS) Turn out in the first round of Legislative elections in Iran was “moderate”, as people, exacerbated by rising prices, inflation, further restrictions in already much limited freedom, are more busy with the New Year festivities – on 20 March -- than an event that, under present conditions, has little impact on their daily lives.
The elections for the eighth Majles, or Parliament of the Islamic regime of Iran have been marked by the “massive” rejection of candidates filed by the so-called reformist groups by the responsible electoral instances like the Interior Ministry or the Council of the Guardians, a 12-members body in charge of approving all candidates in all elections in Iran, an administration which is controlled by the leader of the regime, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
Boycotting the elections would change nothing. But by voting, one might change something
42 million Iranians aged 18 and more go to polls to fill the 290 seats of the Iranian Parliament.
If Mr. Qolamhoseyn Karbaschi, a former Mayor of Tehran and one of the leaders of a political force close to Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime’s virtual number two man, considers that the Friday race as “unprecedented in the past 29 years”, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the former popular president describes the scope of the rejection as a “tragedy”.
Faced with a “fait accompli” imposed on them by the authorities, many pro-reform organizations and groups, like the Committee for the Defense of Free Elections, made of several political, socials and cultural groups that consider the present elections as “faked and unjust”, called on the voters to either boycott the elections or abstain from voting. But other moderate and pro-reform organizations, such as the E’temad Melli (National Reliance, or Confidence) Party led by former Speaker Ayatollah Mehdi Karroubi opposed the idea.
“Boycotting the elections would change nothing. But by voting, one might change something”, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani said in his Friday sermon.
“He is absolutely right, and this is the reason why the majority of the voters, mostly women and the young ones, the two classes of the society that suffers more from religious, social, cultural and political restrictions and discriminations of the system, have not intensive to vote. In Presidential elections of 1997 and the Legislative race that followed that historic event, these people went massively to the ballot boxes with the hope to change something. But not only it did not work, the regime, after the surprise victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the last presidential elections and the conservatives at the last Legislative elections became more dictatorial and their condition worsened instead of improving”, one veteran journalist noted, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Boycotting elections serves nothing. It is better to vote, hoping to change something, said Hashemi Rafsanjani
Afraid of a massive abstention, the Government of the fanatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as all the tenors of the regime, led by Mr. Khameneh’i, urged the voters to come to the polling stations and vote.
“On 24 of Esfand (Iranian date corresponding to 14 of March 2008), the whole world had its eyes turned to Iran. The enemy has used all its weapons to deviate your attention from this important event. By voting massively, you punch the enemies on the nose”, Mr. Khameneh’i said in his last pre-electoral speeches, reminding that elections are a “religious duty”.
“There is a will among some of the officials to eliminate from the political scene an active part of political forces of the society by rejecting the candidacy of many candidates”, Mr. Karbaschi told the London and Paris-based internet newspaper Roozonline, calling on the people to go to the polls.
However, one of the landmarks of these elections is the competition among parties belonging to both reformists and conservatives factions of the leadership, like the E’temad Melli that has openly criticized and opposed the Participation Front and the Organisation of the Islamic Revolution Mojahedeens, both hard core of the reformists organizations in the one hand and on the other, the two main factions among the Principalists, represented by Ahmadinejad in one side and Mr. Ali Lrijani, the former Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran on the other.
Most Iranian political analysts say the reason the authorities decided to reject the majority of the reformist candidates and ban approved candidates from “lavish campaigning”, meaning giving parties, producing big posters, attacking each other, making “executive promises” and “buying votes” etc, is the deteriorating economic and political situation at home and growing isolation of the country outside.
The most interesting outcome of the vote is that it can serve as a barometer for the popularity of the fanatic President.
Some reformists spokesmen complained that despite promises by organisers of the elections, their observers have not been authorised to monitor voting process and said in some polling stations, frauds were taking place in favour of the conservative candidates.
“If free, the opponents of the Government could easily exploit the present appalling situation to their benefit and win the race. It is for this reason that the Leader, Mr. Khameneh’i, who, despite his penchant for the conservatives, usually avoid to take side openly, this time entered personally into the arena, urged the voters to reject “candidates who have not made clear their lines with the enemies, candidates who speaks the same language of the enemies”, meaning the reformists.
The most interesting outcome of the vote is that it can serve as a barometer for the popularity of the fanatic President who, for the time being, is strongly supported by the Leader. But if his rivals among the Principalists win, he might lose that very important backing of Mr. Khameneh’I and probably the next presidential race, due in 2009. ENDS MAJLES ELECTIONS 14308