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Friday, 14 June 2013

Voting In A Theocracy

The Theocracy that is Iran holds elections, and ostensibly they are ‘free and fair’ with one man or woman, one vote. However, look under the surface and the ‘democratic’ face begins too slip. Ever since the days of Ayatollah Khomeni, any contest (if there was any at all), has been between the leading Ayatollah’s candidates, and those who may veer ever so slightly away from his wishes.

So for example this weeks poll in Iran pits the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s loyalists against what are sometime called ‘moderate’ reformers. Moderates in this instance being relative only against the religious/social hard-line stances of the ‘Loyalists’. They would not be classed as ‘moderates’ in the Western concepts of the word (or outside of BBC Newspeak).

The Surviving Candidates

While all six surviving candidates - a lot of the ‘seculars’ or supporters of the outgoing President (the woman consoling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), and ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were disqualified by the ruling Guardian Council - are seen as conservatives, one of them, cleric Hassan Rouhani, has been reaching out to the reformists in recent days.

His reforming agenda is:
  • The need to re-engage with the West,
  • He has also promised to free political prisoners and
  • Called for greater reform of the media (although that can be read many ways).

The sudden interest in him is because Mohammad Reza Aref, the only real reformist candidate in the race, suddenly announced that he was withdrawing his candidature – he said it was on the advice of pro-reform ex-President Mohammad Khatami who was backing Hassan Rouhani.

Not too strangely, many of those who bravely tried to protest the nature of reforms in 2009 (and who were badly beaten by the police and religious supporters), have shown a reluctance to brave the streets again …. Especially after the disqualification of Mr Rafsanjani in May, which meant many supporters of the ‘liberal’ movement are divided about whether to bother voting in the election at all.

So in all likelihood a hard-liner will win (even the reformer is hardline), but in any case the un-elected Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his Guardian Council will continue to rule Iran, regardless of the nature of any regime elected ‘by the people’ … one man one vote, and that man is Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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