Middle East

Middle East

Conservative Contradictions in Iran

A man at an election rally in Kerman, Iran, holds a brochure for two conservative candidates standing in the Feb. 20 legislative elections
A man at an election rally in Kerman, Iran, holds a brochure for two conservative candidates running in the Feb. 20 legislative elections (Photo: Berhouz Mehri/AFP-Getty Images).

Conservatives and those who criticize reform have recently shown a certain contradiction in their political behavior.

They have said that [the Feb. 20 legislative polls] will be free elections. They insist that the people have the right to vote and choose whomever they want. They have invited the people to vote in large numbers. On the other hand, they have also criticized the electorate for its previous “careless” choices. “If our people had participated in previous elections with greater care, awareness, and commitment we would not have had so much of the scandal and intrigue that delight the enemy in the present elections,” they say.

On the one hand, they call the people “sensible” and “pious” and consider the people’s vote the decisive factor. On the other hand, they write, to use just one example, that “the most important and fundamental difference between the religious democracy of fundamentalists and the religious democracy of the extremists and self-styled reformers...is that in the religious democracy of extremists and the supposed reformers, one must approve aspiring candidates for the majlis [legislative assembly] or the presidency with minimum conditions and norms, outside any religious framework, under the pretext that the people have sufficient sense and intelligence to decide. Our people do not need domestic or foreign mentors, they say, so we can have free and competitive elections...But in the religious democracy of fundamentalists, aspirants must have specific conditions set within the framework of the laws of Islam in order to be presented to the people as candidates.”

It is “the people’s Islamic vote” in this case that is the decisive factor. They approve of the unregulated and unrestricted supervision of the Guardian Council over elections—that is, candidates—and consider it legal. They denounce the criticisms of reformers who say Guardian Council supervision over the voting process amounts to support for one particular faction. Yet they call rumors of possible electoral fraud “foolish,” despite the rumors’ having sprung from certain conservatives’ comments that the Guardian Council might be responsible for counting votes. To prove their point, they argue that the “those who spread the foolish rumor that the elections might be fraudulent have forgotten that the operational and executive aspects of the elections, including the counting of votes, are entirely the responsibility of the interior ministry. The supervisory committees [including the Guardian Council] have a duty only to supervise. In accordance with the Constitution, they have no executive powers; they are charged with overseeing the electoral process and reporting violations!” And so they call it a “great mistake” to spread such rumors.

If these statements had been published in independent newspapers, they would likely have been considered the results of confused thinking and foreign meddling. So do we also have the right to look at these statements as a good measure of how sincere those [conservative] groups that claim to tell the “truth” are? Will they stop making promises and serve the people instead?