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The Pub Is Closed: A Review Of The Parliamentary Elections In Iran

By Bahman Aghai Diba


The pub or its Iranian equivalent "Ghavehkhaneh" is the gathering place of persons who speak about various things and they go home without anyone taking them seriously.   This is what the Iranian Majlis had tuned into.  The hardliners, who had always the power in their hands, did not let any of the serious issues considered by the Sixth Majlis or the reformist Majlis to take much distance from the mere words. 


Out of the approvals of the last Majlis, no great bill or proposal was finalized.  Some of the important bills and proposals that never reached anywhere, but wasted a lot of time and energy were:


  1. Bill on the adhesion of Iran to the United Nations Convention on Elimination of discrimination against women
  2. Twin bills for amendment of the authority of the President for implementation of the Constitutional Law
  3. Bill for adhesion of Iran to the International Convention on banning of torture
  4. Proposal for definition of the political crimes
  5. Proposal for amendment of the elections law
  6. Proposal to inspect the expenses of the Iranian Radio-TV Organization 
  7. Proposal for control of the finances of the institutions under the supervision of the Supreme Leader 


During the last twenty-five years the extremists have run the Iranian regime.  They will continue to do so as long as the fundamental components of the regime stay the same.  At the present conditions, negation of the religious extremism (as the major culprit in violation of civil rights) is the negation of the present regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The regime is not ready to improve and it has proved time and again that it is not geared up to change. However, the extremists of Iran have one big talent.  They are able to neutralize any person or organization that dare to walk out of the red line set by certain figures. The Sixth Majlis was so neutralized that a third class, illiterate, and impolite judge of the public courts could call all of the deputies as traitors and put them to trial for speaking in the Majlis.  On the other side, an office in the disciplinary forces, which originally was established to do issues like giving certificates of wedding ceremonies, had turned into an organization that summoned people for interrogation and gave public statements about the most important problems of the country, that are expected to be issued from the office of the president. At the same time, the president is forced to turn into a dissatisfied superficial figure heading a bunch of ministers who are not allowed to do their job as they want.       


There is nothing new in these words for the people of Iran. Many of Iranians stayed away from elections, because the Guardians Council had already made the choosing for them.  A great number of those who voted in the recent elections, voted only because they were afraid to lose their rights or privileges.  Those who work or take benefits from the governmental organizations or the so-called revolutionary institutions are afraid to lose her jobs or benefits (such as low cost housing in good places, admission in universities without passing the difficult tests, getting monthly allowances, and getting permits for everything from opening a store to driving a cab) if they do not vote.  Those who want to travel out of Iran are always worried that they may face problems if they do not vote and do not have the stump of elections in their ID cards.  Those who voted and those who did not knew that changing the persons sitting in the pub had no meaning. The so-called representatives speak, bluff, and tell fake stories about " hunting" and go home.  Those who had the power are still holding it and they are not able to solve the problems of this country that they have created many of them.    


The Sixth Majlis was part of the game played by the extremisms under the disguise of reforms.  Some persons, whose real affiliation to reforms is seriously under doubt, and a collection of persons who were always at the service of the extremist regime wanted to waste the time of this nation. The Sixth Majlis was sometimes forgetting that it was not intended to be anything more than being a pub.  They impeached several ministers of the reformist cabinet as if these miserable figures were responsible for anything.  Take the case of the foreign minister.  He was almost impeached several times by the deputies of Majlis for the policies that he was not decision-maker on them.   One of serious cases was the failure of Iran in the Caspian Sea and its pipeline diplomacy.  The foreign minister was not responsible for bad relations of Iran with the key countries in and out of the region.  But he was going to be impeached. 


The real problem in the politics and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is that the Majlis, like many other institutions in Iran does not have the traditional or standard meaning.  Consequently, this leads to improper expectations from those institutions. I would like to explain some these institutions in the present day Iran.


Iranian Parliament: What we see in Islamic republic of Iran is not the parliament in the sense of the dictionary of politics. This is an Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlisse Shoraye Islami). "Islamic" here means that the whole institution is subject to observing Islamic tenets and hierarchy. (Islamic in the present day Iran means whatever a few persons say. They are not under obligation to keep their words the same and they can interpret Islam as they wish).  Consultative means that it is in the level of consultation and nothing more. According to existing interpretation from the Islamic rules, Allah defines "laws" and mankind is not permitted to make laws, they only can find ways to implement them. Legislation is an act of God and approving anything in contrary to those acts, is considered to be "Bedat" which means "initiative" and it is an important sin. As such there is no equivalent of the Western Parliament in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The members of Majlis do not have political immunity, or even ordinary rights, for what they say in Majlis and more important than that they are under no obligation to do or say what their constituencies want, rather they are committed to act according to the interests of Islam (with official interpretation).


Elections:  All kinds of elections in the I.R .of Iran are hold after detailed and strict screening of the candidates by several institutions. The aim of the screening is to make sure that they the candidates are in the line of ruling circles. One of the important screening sources is the Council of Guardians, which will be introduced. There are others, which work in different levels. The results of these screenings usually lead to choosing certain types of persons. Most probable persons that come out of the screening are clergies and their relatives and/or employees of the intelligence organizations or so-called revolutionary institutions. This is a known fact and persons who do not have the required strong relations (by blood or marriage or through regular payment of a special tax called "the share of Imam") do not bother to become candidate. They know that there is no chance to pass the barrier and they save the embarrassment. Those who do not observe the rule, face the same result and they are eliminated without any regards to what people may think or what are the reactions of other countries and organizations. Therefore, it can be said that there is no elections in the IR of Iran. What we have there is a kind of appointment. In the case of elections for Majlis, the supervisory organs reserve the right to reject the results of elections in at least two more stages.

Council of Guardians: this is consisted mostly of persons appointed by the Supreme Leader (or Valie Faghih. This expression is usually taken as the leader or some kind of king. It's not correct. "Vali" means guardian, or the person who has the position of guardian toward person or persons who need guardianship. According to the Iranian regime's version of Islam, the Valie Faghih is the person who has the guardianship over all Muslims who need the service. This has important direct and implied results. The most important one is that the views or the votes of those who are in need of guardianship are not pertinent in appointing or electing of the "guardian". Also, the guardian is not obliged to do things that the persons in need of guardianship (minors) want to be done. The guardian can tell lies or tell something and do something else because he is the sole source of distinguishing what is good or bad for the minors.) For  keeping an eye on the Majlis. This is really interesting. If the state is really Islamic and its parliament is the Islamic Consultative Assembly, then why should another council supervise it to make sure that Islam is observed? Who says that more than 200 persons (almost all of them Mullahs) which have been partly elected by people (the reality is that even these persons are not people's representatives. The Council of Guardians has strictly screened all candidates) do not understand Islam but the small group, which is gathered in the Council of Guardians, can do that?

Freedom (Azadi): This word is largely misused in Iran. Some of the Iranian religious leaders claim that the freedoms, which are mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are not enough to express the scope of freedoms that Islamic regime gives to Human beings. If you review their teachings you will soon notice that they only use the term "human beings" for their own followers, otherwise they do not consider others as human beings. Therefore, they have certainly much more extended rights and privileges for their followers.

Council of Experts (Majlis e Khobreghan): This institution has been introduced to people as a kind of constitutional assembly and it is referred to as such in the Western press. This not corrects. Council of experts is not consisted of people's representatives. They are all Mullahs screened by the "Council of Guardians" for this post.

Expediency Council: The council was originally envisaged to solve the conflicts between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, but it is doing something else. The real name of this institution is: The Assembly to Distinguish Expediency of the Regime. This is very clear. The council is not in charge of finding the expediency of Iran or Islam or any thing like that. It is only in charge of finding what is best for continuation of the regime. This council is as important as the Ayatollah and power broker, Rafsanjani, who is heading it.  Because the council and its leader are ready and willing to do what is finally required for the continuation of regime, this may include better relations with the United States. 

The experience of Islamic revolution in Iran proved once again that mixture of politics and Islam, in the world, which is divided into nation-states and the governments, which are designed to follow the national interests, does not work. For a long time in Iran (hundreds of years), religious people had claimed that all problems in the society came from non-observance of Islamic rules and if religious Islamic leaders become political masters in the society, everything would be in order and justice would prevail all over the state. More than two decades of Islamic government in Iran has showed clearly that the idea was not working.  There is no doubt that the people of Iran are less religious and more under-developed now, compared to twenty-five years ago.  What is happening in Iran at the present juncture is a clear struggle by the people of Iran to get religion separated from politics. There is no other way. Anyone, including all Muslims and any government, especially the U.S., that wish a better life for the people of Islamic countries and similar states, and also seek international peace and development, should help the cause of separating religion from politics.

About the author:
Bahman Aghai Diba, PhD Int. Law, is a consultant in international law to the World Resources Company in the Washington DC area. 



... Payvand News - 3/11/04 ... --

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