Why Iran's Elections Should Be Boycotted
Kurdishaspect.com - By Mustafa Hijri
It is in democracy that modern forms of political authority find their most powerful source of legitimacy. Even dictatorships know this. But instead of embarking on a process of genuine democratization, dictatorial regimes engage in manipulating practices by enshrining popular sovereignty – the most fundamental element of democracy – in their constitutions and some of them even hold elections. Their aim is to uphold the appearance of democracy – domestically and internationally.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, however, has no democratic constitution. In fact, it prides itself on being a theocratic system in opposition to democracy. Nevertheless, this clerical regime uses elections in order to gain domestic and international legitimacy for its survival.
Iran is holding its tenth round of presidential election on June 12. The four candidates running for the presidency are all true believers and defenders of the Iranian theocracy. They have all held various positions at the highest level in the clerical regime and their candidacy was therefore accepted by the “supreme leader”, Ali Khamenei, and consequently by the non-elected body known as the Guardian Council. Khamenei is, in his capacity as valiye faqih, the ultimate source of authority and power in the Iranian theocracy.
Thus, “selection” is a more adequate term for the phenomenon called “election” in Iran. In spite of this fact, and in spite of the fact that the clerical regime rejects democracy constitutionally as well as in its official rhetoric, the Islamic Republic has managed to project an image of itself as a system of government upholding the principle of popular sovereignty.
As a result, voters in Iran who want their country to take the path of democracy and liberty, are being lured into these so-called elections in the hope that one of the regime’s candidates will “reform” the system. For disillusioned voters – especially following the failure or unwillingness of the previous president Mohammad Khatami to “reform” the system – the choice is between bad candidates and those that are worse.
Likewise, foreign countries, the United States and the European countries in particular, hope for an election outcome whereby a “reformist” president will bring about change in Iran’s foreign policy behavior.
Any realistic assessment of the Iranian theocracy – one that takes into account its ideological foundations and its power structure – will yield only one conclusion with regard to such hopes: they will never materialize so long as the political system in Iran remains in its current form and substance.
This assessment does not reject the existence of various factions within the clerical regime. But it is important to bear in mind that all the factions adhere to the basic principles of theocratic government. For the various factions in question, elections serve as a means to regulate their internal competition for government positions. Even if there were any faction or candidate genuinely committed to “reform”, the regime’s structure of power and velayat-e faqih would rule it out.
Consequently, Iranians taking part in the presidential election will provide support to the clerical regime in claiming popular legitimacy and contribute to its survival. Internationally, so long as foreign countries accept the Iranian theocracy’s appearance of upholding the principle of popular sovereignty, they too will lend support to its claim of being a legitimate government. As long as the clerical regime believes that it enjoys international legitimacy, it will be bent on continuing the kind of foreign policies that pose threats to international peace and stability.
Therefore, my party, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, and the majority of the Iranian opposition groups have called on the peoples of Iran to boycott the presidential election. We regard boycott of the organized charade on June 12 as an opportunity to peacefully express opposition to the Iranian theocracy.
The International Community should give us its moral and political support in this endeavor, because it is at once morally justified and politically prudent.
Mustafa Hijri is the General-Secretary of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI).
This article was originally publish on Monday’s edition of the www.RealClearWorld.com
Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan US Representation