Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Representative government in Iran

Democracy in Iran is not like democracy elsewhere. In fact, whether it is democratic or representative is open to question. That's a good beginning to discussions about what we mean by those labels. It's also a good beginning to considering whether other regimes are democratic or representative.

This article from the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site offers some observations about the upcoming elections for the Assembly of Experts. Don't be disappointed if you don't find much support for the headline's assertion that the elections are signficant because most of the article excerpted here discusses the results of the vetting process.

Iran: Assembly Election Significant Despite Heavy Vetting

"In less than a month, Iranians will vote in elections for one of the country's most powerful bodies, the Assembly of Experts. Vetting has already winnowed the list of hopefuls by two-thirds and left some candidates unopposed, begging questions about how much choice voters are being given. But the election is relevant for a number of reasons.

"The Assembly of Experts has the power to dismiss the country's highest-ranking political and religious figure, the supreme leader, and appoint a replacement. But even beyond statutory powers, victory in the Assembly of Experts race will either cement the fundamentalists' hold on Iran's elected institutions or initiate the reformists' return to political relevance...

"The Assembly of Experts has 86 members, all of them clerics. The field of candidates for the December 15 election has fallen sharply over the past month... A Guardians Council spokesman... announced recently that there were 144 eligible candidates... That represents less than 30 percent of the 492 prospective candidates Kadkhodai mentioned in mid-October... [He] said that 100 people had withdrawn their applications. He added that all the female applicants failed the written exam on religious interpretation (ijtihad)...

"The candidate disqualifications are likely to dominate headlines in Tehran for some time. But a prominent issue in the weeks before that announcement was the creation of election coalitions...

"Ultimately, coalition formation may not have much impact when there are so few candidates. Realistically, it does not appear that the Assembly of Experts race will be very competitive. 
  
"The lack of choice could reduce voter enthusiasm. 
  
"But the fact that municipal councils are being elected the same day could boost turnout figures. The competition for those seats appears to be more intense, and there might be greater flexibility in candidate vetting on the municipal level. 
  
"If voter participation is high as a result, officials are likely to tout these elections as a sign of support for the current system."

3 Comments:

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Iran: Reformists Reportedly Disqualified From Local Elections

"The names of vetted candidates for upcoming municipal council elections in Iran will be announced in the final days of November, some two weeks before the actual voting takes place. Preliminary reports from around the country suggest mass disqualifications of reformists in the provinces, in contrast with official reports of inclusiveness...

"The December 15 elections for municipal councils may seem unimportant in terms of national politics. Although called for in the constitution, council elections did not take place until 1999. Former President Mohammad Khatami and other reformists promoted the councils as an important step in the development of civil society institutions in Iran, and voter participation in the 1999 elections was noteworthy.

"The councils did not live up to practical expectations, however, not least because they do not have any significant powers or responsibilities. They deal with construction permits, fire departments, garbage collection, parks, public transportation, roads, and street cleaning. The central government is responsible for everything else, such as education, electricity, and the provision of water...

"Despite these criticisms of the councils, there is stiff competition for a place on them. Reformist parties see victory in the council elections as an important step in regaining the elected offices lost to fundamentalists in the parliamentary race of 2004 and presidential race of 2005. The fundamentalists see the elections as an important stage in continuing their winning streak and cementing their hold on power."

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

On 17 December 2006, the Washington Post reported on preliminary results of the elections.

Results in Iranian Vote Seen as Setback for Ahmadinejad

"Allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to dominate elections for a powerful Iranian clerical body and local councils, according to early results Sunday, in what analysts said was a setback to the hard-line leader's standing...

"Analysts said the outcome could boost moderate conservatives who say Ahmadinejad is trying to centralize power among his close allies and ignoring other conservative political forces."

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

In an early report that may not be complete or completely accurate, Xinhua reported on the final results from elections in Iran on Thursday.

Iran's elections: conservative camp defeated

"Final results released by Iran's Interior Ministry showed on Thursday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conservative camp had been defeated by his opponents in elections held last week.

"According to the published figures, moderate conservative mayor [of Tehran] Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf's camp won eight seats of 15 at Tehran city council, reformers got four, Ahmadinejad's followers two and one went to independent...

"Similar result was visible in the final results of an election for the Assembly of Experts..."

 

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