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Iran's Election Turnout Worries

Daily urges measures to restore the people's confidence in the electoral process

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA -- "It's an open secret that the first expeirence of citizens in Tehran and some other cities with City Councils and the crass incompetence of the members, who were only in pursuit of their own personal immediate interests, has left an extremely unsavory taste behind, wrote `Kayhan International' on Wednesday in its Viewpoint column.

But the previous unsuccessful experience and the fact that some of the guilty are again making a bid to fill the same slots could make even fools change their minds about going out to vote, it said.

The US, which prides itself as a model democracy, has one of the lowest turnout in presidential or mid-term elections. In Iran, "serious doubts have been raised on the widespread participation of our people in the forthcoming city council elections," it pointed out.

In almost all democracies, voting is a privilege and a right and not a legal obligation. The same is true in the Islamic Republic.

But this Friday's city and rural council elections are crucial and raising the "hazy past records of some of the candidates" as an excuse for not voting would only give these candidates a cutting edge.

The establishment of city and rural councils rests on the government as mandated by the constitution. It would be wrong to raise the issue of past dismal performance as a reason not to vote.

"Evasions of the law, unlawful self-enrichment of the government coffer and partisan esprit de corps as well as influence peddling through city council membership" are facts of political life not exclusive to the Islamic Republic.

To restore the people's confidence in this democratic process, candidates should be properly screened, and only those who are fit to run should be on the bandwagon, suggested the daily.

And, of course, those who have used the same positions to enrich themselves should be punished.

Actions always speak louder than words. Voters in this country are intelligent and there is always the hope of winning back their confidence. If those entrusted with responsibility for screening candidates and supervising the upcoming elections will show by deeds and not only by words that they are determined to give responsible candidates a chance, the people will not disappoint them.

To achieve that end, councils must firstly "disqualify corrupt candidates, whose past criminal records have been glossed over either intentionally or unintentionally by those in charge of the required screening processes," the daily suggested.

Secondly, there should be legal guarantees that criminal acts while in office will not go unpunished, it said.

Regrettably, what officials have done is only to "issue statements" urging the people to vote.

The daily ended with an optimistic note, saying that if its suggestions are heeded, "by and large, despite the regrettable overwhelming popular feelings of skepticism about city and rural councils" could still be overturned.

Karroubi warns against discouraging turnout in municipal polls

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA -- Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi here Tuesday invited sympathizers of the Islamic Revolution to refrain from disappointing people ahead of the Friday city and village council elections as he held high hopes in the polls.

"It is normal if the enemies disappoint the people. But, if this is done by somebody inside us, it must not be done," he told reporters after touring election headquarters of the interior ministry.

About 225,000 hopefuls have registered for the municipality elections which are held for the second time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The first municipal elections, envisaged in the 1979 Islamic Constitution, were held in 1999 on the back of President Khatami's bid to promote democracy and build a civil society in Iran.

City councils in capital Tehran, however, which acts as the throbbing heart of Iran's politics, were entailed in acrimonious bickering of its members, which forced the interior minister to disband it last month.

Last week's Friday prayer leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, seized on the occasion to state that "the first Islamic councils, especially in Tehran, were a bitter experience".

"People must cast their votes for those have no political affiliation, since those who have political leaning will pour water to the mill of the politics and not the people," Ayatollah Jannati said.

Karroubi begged to differ, saying "the presence of political figures in the Islamic council elections is no problem, but what is ugly is the politicization (of the polling) by individuals".

"The elections are free and anybody can participate in them and the people will choose those who are useful and do work," he added.

The dissolution of the Tehran City Council extracted the condemnation of several political associations, which described the move as a "stain" on President Khatami's reform government.

Such developments are seen by certain politicians as having disenchanted the masses, while Karroubi held his hopes high, saying that "news emerging from provinces indicate that people are eager for warm turnout and I am confident this ascending trend will hold on".

"The people have repeatedly shown that they are loyal to the revolution and the system," the parliament speaker said.

He also acknowledged that there existed some shortcomings during the first city council elections, "but people must not look at these shortcomings to decide whether to participate in the second Islamic village and city councils elections".

"Nobody denies that there have been some shortcomings, but we must encourage people's massive participation in the elections," he said.

EC chairman calls elections Iran's most determining issue

Tehran, Feb 26, IRNA - Chairman of the Expediency Council (EC) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani here on Wednesday described elections as the most determining issue of the country, urging the nation to strongly participate at the upcoming local council polling.

Rafsanjani, speaking at the inauguration ceremony of a conference of IRGC officials, stressed that the public will had a significant contribution to the success of the country, adding that the affairs of the country can never be determined without taking the public will into consideration.

He regretted that certain "imprudent remarks" had been misused as a news propaganda to deter the public from attending the elections, and even led to speculations that "the men of faith" would ban the elections.

Rafsanjani further stressed that the remarks by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had a significant impact on resolving the issue.

... Payvand News - 2/26/03 ... --

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