Iran’s democracy is a sham but here is why I voted in the Presidential Election

By   /   May 23, 2017  /   11 Comments

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My friend and I cast our votes for the Iranian Presidential Election in Christchurch last Friday knowing full well the election was effectively rigged in advance by unelected clerics who had decided who could and couldn’t run.

Mahboubeh Wall casts her vote for the Iranian Presidential election at Te Hāpua Halswell Centre in Christchurch.

My friend and I cast our votes for the Iranian Presidential Election in Christchurch last Friday knowing full well the election was effectively rigged in advance by unelected clerics who had decided who could and couldn’t run.

Inside Iran, some 40 million people participated in the election- a huge turnout of about 70 percent.

The election was presented by most mainstream media in the West as a race between “moderates” and “hardliners”.

But both candidates, the incumbent President, Hassan Rouhani, and, Ebrahim Raisi, had one goal in common: the longevity of the Islamic Republic.

Rouhani, considered as the more moderate of the two, is known to talk about freedom, women’s rights and the opening up of Iran to the outside world but a quick look at the latest report by Human Rights Watch on Iran tells a horrifyingly different story.

Executions, mainly for drug offences, are rife; political prisoners including many journalists and bloggers continue to face torture and inhumane treatment in jail; women suffer from discrimination and the imposition of compulsory hijab; cultural and political activities of minorities remain restricted and, for Baha’is, forbidden; social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, remain blocked and intelligence services continue to heavily monitor citizens’ activities online and arrest users who make controversial comments.

Moderate? I don’t think so. Although to be fair, it is the supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who wields the ultimate power in Iran.

Khamenei selects half of the Guardian Council, the vetting arm of the Islamic Republic. The other half is chosen by the Judiciary Chief.  Who selects the Judiciary Chief? You guessed it. The Supreme Leader.  

From right to left: Atefeh Vahedi, Mohsen Ramyar and Jamaledin Borzouie assist at the polling station set up in Christchurch for the Iranian Presidential Election last Friday.

 

But if things are bad under Rouhani, most people knew they were likely to get much worse under his main election rival, 56-year-old Ebrahim Raisi.

Many Iranians consider Raisi as one of the key members of the so-called “Death Commission”.

Starting on 19 July 1988 and lasting for five months, an unprecedented and terrifying wave of political executions swept across Iran.

Amnesty International confirmed 300 executions but reported the numbers could be in thousands. The Iranian regime has always denied its involvement but the opposition groups claim the deaths were state-sponsored.

But Raisi’s questionable past was not the only problem.

His campaign was based on dragging Iran and its relationship with the West, back to the pre-nuclear deal era.

He was beating the drums of isolationism, just as the Iranians were seeing a glimmer of hope with the lifting of sanctions and the removal of the economic stranglehold on their country.

So, if the election was a sham, and the option was between ‘bad’ and ‘worse’, why validate the authority of the ruling clergy and signal its legitimacy to the world by bothering to vote?

Iranians do not have to look far to find the answer.

Syria and Iraq are good examples of what happens when the system collapses and foreign powers intervene.

For the first time ever, my anti-regime friends in Iran were saying they sooner have the autocratic mullahs reign over them than be engulfed in the same chaos and violence they were witnessing in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

In 2005, many Iranians boycotted the election as an expression of their disappointment with the reform movements of the outgoing president Mohammed Khatami.

The result was an unforgettable disaster called, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s equivalent of Donald Trump.

Iranians vowed never to repeat that mistake again.

In 2009, a record 85 percent of the eligible population voted in the presidential election in an effort to kick out Ahmadinejad and his cronies out of office.

But much to people’s surprise, Ahmadinijad was reelected. The obviously rigged election  sparked massive protests and produced the Green Movement with its popular slogan, “Where is my vote?”

Although, no satisfactory answer was ever supplied to that question, the authorities learnt never to underestimate the patience of Iranians and their hunger for reforms.

So, although we know our votes sustain the Islamic regime, we also understand that our electoral participation preserves a political system which, at the very least, prevents Iran from tumbling into the same instability and chaos that have brought untold misery to the Syrians and Iraqis.

Many opposition groups, based outside of Iran, urged their supporters not to vote. For them, chaos and foreign intervention provide a quick route to power.

But, those of us who still remember the bitter lessons of the Iranian revolution, will never again be fooled into thinking that the alternative would be any better.

We have experienced enough bloodshed and disappointment to know that those who promise the earth, deliver tears and broken dreams only.

The Iranian history shows that, ultimately, the will of people will prevail.

So, with an aching heart I voted for Rouhani and was relieved to hear he won with a comfortable majority.

As Reuters reported, the message is clear: “Iranians want more freedom at home and less isolation abroad”.

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About the author

Donna Miles

Donna Miles is a British-born, Iranian-bred, New Zealand citizen with a strong interest in human rights, justice and equality issues.

11 Comments

  1. Samwise says:

    It’s ironic really. Trump has cuddled up to the Saudis, which are an unelected religious dictatorship, while he lambasts Iran, which is at least on the path to multi-party democracy. Iran’s system is by no means perfect, but it beats the Wahhabism monarchy that chops of peoples’ heads and suppresses women.

    Iran is closer aligned to our democratic values than Saudi Arabia.that’s something that seems to have escaped trump’s notoriously short attention span.

    • Donna Miles says:

      Here here.

    • Off white says:

      It’s ironic really. It’s as though you didn’t read the article, yet you make mention of attention span. The part about the the human rights watch, executions rife, torture of journalists and discrimination of women. The place sounds just like Saudi.

      • Lois Griffiths says:

        There is no other country in the world ‘just like Saudi’.

        It’s disturbing that media reports on Trump’s visit made no mention about Saudi Arabia’s bombing of Yemen..about how millions of Yemeni face a famine of biblical proportions..and now cholera…

        The US threatens Iran, surrounds Iran with American bases, and arms Israel and Saudi Arabia with the latest in high-tech killing armaments.
        The cold-blooded callousness of the West is frightening, as is the political power of military corporations. ..as is the lack of interest in the skills of diplomacy

      • Sally's Husband says:

        So you’re an apologist for the Saudi, Off White, because they are our “friends”? Just as well we never became friends with Nazi Germany, you’d be rah-rahing for Adolph.

  2. Lois Griffiths says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  3. frank says:

    the sentiments expressed in this article will be worth recalling as we head to the polling booth to select our own least bad option

  4. Brigid says:

    Given HRW false account of the situation in Syria, perhaps their report on Iran is not completely correct also.

  5. debsisdead says:

    Unelected official in the US determined who could run for prez there, they decided Sanders could not and that created a big mess.
    America who imprisons & executes people at a far greater rate than Iran isn’t considered in your self hating diatribe. Your whine about the ‘impure democracy’ of Iran could be extended to every other so called democracy around the world they all have ways to ensure the choice is only between tweedledum or tweedledee.

    NZ has its own fit ups and gerrymanders the Epsom electorate being a prime example. These decisions are made by party officials often in consultation with electoral authorities none of whom are answerable to the wider public.
    I don’t understand why people who don’t live in Iran, many of whom weren’t even born there because their antecedents scurried out of the place with whatever ill gotten gains they could carry when the murdering & torturing Pahlavi – a typical Russian gangster, was gotten rid of.
    Yet somehow these self interested foreigners believe they have anything to offer in the way of informed comment of Iran. The fact that this article relies on ‘reports’ by proven zionist front the mercenary Human Rights Watch, pretty much sums up the foundation of fakery this garbage was built upon.