Recent proclamation of general policies for elections by the Iranian Republic Supreme Leader prepares the ground for a new epoch in legal and legislative efforts to further controlling of elections. It also intensifies systematic and structural problems on the path to fair, free, competitive, healthy and efficient elections.
From the very beginning, Iranian Republic was after making the process of election defective. It also has tried to reduce elections to indirect appointments and election of those elected by the Supreme Leader. To do so, the Iranian Republic has created controlling mechanisms such as Guardian Council, as well as legal and extra-legal interference of the Supreme Leader, hegemonic media, and pressure groups in Iran.
But even this defective election structure has always been problematic for Jurist Leadership, due to fundamental conflicts and increasing domestic tension. As a result, it has been impossible to cripple thoroughly or entirely prevent the impact of people, political and social forces who protest against the status quo.
Review of general policies of elections, which have been formulated by the Expediency Council and finalized after Khamenei’s evaluation, shows that it is no longer probable to reduce the presidency to just a regular office, revive the position of prime minister, or elect the president by the parliament.
Nevertheless, this official statement contains some key points that will increase restrictions in elections, making it far from standards of fair and free elections.
Of course, there are some positive points in these general policies. But they are mostly slogans — such as the emphasis on fair and free elections, the necessity of providing documentation for disqualifying candidates, observing people’s rights, noninterference of military or security forces and institutions of the establishment, banning character assassination, raising public awareness, etc. And given certain features of Iran’s legal structure of power, such slogans will be mere words.
But in other parts, there are issues that can make elections devoid of their real significance and meaning. In the following, its significant points will be clarified:
» Controlling Financial Resources
A chapter in general policies deals with supervising elections cost and checking the manner of providing and spending financial resources. That, of course, is a necessary principle. But given the lack of impartiality in the judiciary branch, implementation of this policy will practically make it more difficult for forces that are critical of the establishment and are outside the official channels of power to secure financial resources in the framework of Iranian Republic. It can be predicted that willingness to give financial aids to moderate factions of the establishment will decrease due to fear of retaliatory reactions by the dominant part of the power.
» Banning Aids from Foreigners
A part of general policies also deals with strict control to ban financial and promotional aids from foreigners.
Not using foreign financial resources in the domestic political process, such as elections is a fair and defensible issue. But given the politicized confrontation by the establishment and ungrounded allegations by the circles close to the Jurist Leadership in media, as well as their judiciary and security immunity, implementing this principle will do more harm to those who are critical of the establishment and not close to the circle of power.
Moreover, due to the establishment’s monopoly over TV networks and unilateral use of public media forums, civil society and those seeking changes in Iran will benefit from using Farsi-language networks abroad. Implementing this directive will put freedom and fairness of elections in danger more than before. Of course, activists in these networks should also be careful that their media activities would not be mistaken for promotional activities. Some journalists who work in these networks have degraded themselves to propaganda machines for reformists and moderates by deviating from their professional standards.
» Preventing Crimes in Elections
Given the non-judiciary policies of the justice department and reduction of the country’s intelligence system to protector of the ruling faction, this directive will also harm those who are critical of the establishment. Based on this directive, the election activities of some candidates might be early terminated.
» Limiting Competition
Frameworks and rules of elections have become limited to factors such as increasing the authority and stability of the regime. Given the undemocratic and authoritarian feature of Iran’s political system, this issue will restrict the competition in elections to the discretion of the Supreme Leader as the backbone of the regime.
» Increasing Authority of Guardian Council in Presidential Elections
Certain necessary conditions and criteria for presidential candidates are to be determined by the Guardian Council. Considering the narrow view of this council, the number of those who can try their luck for becoming president will become limited.
» Extension of Guardian Council’s Activities and Interference
In general, policies for elections, the area of Guardian Council’s activities in the elections for Parliament, Expert Council, and Presidency has significantly increased, creating functional problems in the structure of elections. According to the Guardian Council’s spokesperson Abbasali Kadkhodaie, the council is after using this opportunity to solidify its unaccountable supervisory position over elections. This measure will be justified as improving issued election policies, increasing informed participation and stabilizing the Iranian Republic rule.
» Extension of Approbatory Supervision over Parliament Members
For the first time in general policies for elections, supervisory duties over parliament members have explicitly extended to their post-election period.
Even though no institution has been mentioned to carry this out, it can be predicted that supporters of Jurist Leadership will try to give this duty to Guardian Council, given the Supreme Leader’s tendency as well as the increase in Guardian Council’s authorities. It is notable that some parliament members, like Ali Motahari and Mahmoud Sadeghi, are opposed to such changes. It is highly unlikely that the parliament will give in, but implications from the higher sources of power can change it.
All in all, following the fact the general policies of elections that have been ratified by the Expediency Council headed by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the possibility of changing approbatory supervision in the tenth parliament is close to zero.
AGCIS Translated Material: Farda Radio