Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Proposal to nowhere?

It's probably a good thing that I'm not an Iranian politician. I would never bother to propose to the rulers that they change a system that keeps them in power. I would never expect any positive response to such a proposal. However, looking at late 20th century history in Mexico and Russia, maybe I shouldn't be so defeatist.

Iranian politicians call for free elections
A heated debate about who will be allowed to run in Iran’s presidential election has erupted five months before the vote, stoking concerns about a repeat of the protests that followed the contested 2009 poll.

At the heart of the controversy is whether the vote will be what critics of Iran’s electoral system call “free” — that is, cast with a ballot that includes candidates from all of Iran’s various political factions and not just so-called principlists, the conservatives who are loyal to the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment that rules Iran.

The loudest calls for an open field of participants are coming from two former presidents and the outgoing one, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They are trying to ensure that their political allies are not barred from running by the Guardian Council, the powerful committee of clerics and jurists that vets the eligibility of potential candidates…

Ali Hosseini Khamenei
The challenges have sparked fiery responses from Khamenei, who accused Ahmadinejad and his fellow critics of trying to “discourage the nation.” …

The open debate is delicate for Iranian authorities, who [have]… long pointed to high voter turnout as proof of its legitimacy, and that is likely to materialize only if the ballot includes candidates from across Iran’s political spectrum.

That would mean allowing the participation of candidates allied with reformists and Ahmadinejad… He and reformists enjoy popular support, and their allies could siphon votes from establishment contenders, undermining Iran’s system of clerical rule…

“Because the reformists have no hope to win in the next presidential elections, they are using the keyword free election in the political arena of the country to make problems for the elections,” Mojtaba Zonnour, a cleric and an adviser to the supreme leader’s representative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps…

[T]he debate over free elections began with former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In an address to university students in Tehran last month, he said that “the first step for returning balance to our society is to have free, transparent and legal elections. If we do this, all the factions will accept the results of the votes and cooperate and help the government to solve the problems of the country.”…

His words last month sparked a backlash, mostly from ultraconservatives who believe elections should be open only to those most loyal to the establishment…


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