or not to vote?
By Samira Mohyeddin
January 19, 2004
In act 3 scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Hamlet
delivers his infamous existential monologue by beginning with a
fundamental question, "to be or not to be?" Like Hamlet,
Iranians have their own motives, their own cues for passion, and
have begun wrestling with their own fundamental question, to vote
or not to vote?
Despite the growing media awareness of the political quagmire in
Iran, the looming elections in Iran have become a moot point for
many Iranians. In the face of the vast voter turn out of 1997 (seventy
percent of eligible voters participated), which saw the popular
rise of Mohammad Khatami, Iranians have steadily become disillusioned
with the non-agenda of the so-called "reformist" camp.
In March of 2003, municipal elections in Iran drew less than twelve
percent of eligible voters and February 2004 is shaping up to be
The Council of Guardians has recently barred thousands
of potential candidates, including more than eighty sitting
members of the Majlis from
participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on February
20th. The council is the most influential body in Iran and is currently
controlled by conservatives. It consists of six theologians appointed
by the Supreme Leader and six jurists nominated by the judiciary
by parliament. Members are elected for six years on a phased
basis, so that half the membership changes every three years.
council has to approve all bills passed by parliament and make
sure they conform to the constitution and Islamic law.
the council also has the power to vet all candidates in elections
to parliament and the presidency. If we choose to acknowledge
these facts, in reality, the Council of Guardians are acting
their prescribed roles and are not compromising any aspects
of the Iranian peoples constitutional rights. The council is
constitutionally enshrined and is empowered to ensure parliament's
actions comply with so-called Islamic principles.
The 290-member Majlis are elected by popular vote
every four years. As the country's parliament, the Majlis
has the power to introduce and pass laws, as well as to summon
impeach ministers or the president. However, the Council
of Guardians must approve all parliamentary bills. Ultimately,
these are the
hallmarks of a deficient ruling clerical class and an impotent
parliament that refuses to acknowledge the role it plays
in legitimizing the theocratic system in Iran.
Iran's so-called "reformist" camp has failed
in anyway to question the status quo in Iran. Meaning, it has
failed in recognizing what so many Iranians already know: that
marriage of religion and government cannot become the basis for
a democratic society. In fact, the ire of the so-called reformists
is not even directed at whether there should even be a twelve
member religious body that decides who can and cannot run for parliament.
Their indignation lies with the fact that it is they who are
banned from participating. The electoral system or governmental
structure of the Islamic Republic itself never becomes a point
Sometimes when we choose to change the system from
within, all the while remaining loyal to it, it is inevitably
that changes us. Until the so-called reformist movement concedes
its inefficiency and accepts that the problem of the Islamic
Republic is systematic, it will never have the support of the
a quarter century of living in a tyrannical theocracy, Iranians
have begun to realize that it is not always nobler to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It is the citizens
Iran right now who are asking the difficult questions, not
their law makers or rulers, and it is the citizens whom we should
looking to for answers.
I invite all the members of the Majlis, and all
Iranians in and outside of the country, to take another
look at the constitution of the Islamic Republic and ask themselves
one more question: how much longer are we willing to implement
or uphold a document that is not representative of its people
and is riddled with prejudicial laws?
By choosing to not vote in the upcoming elections in Iran,
Iranians will show that they are no longer willing to partake
in the farce
that is the Islamic Republic.
Samira Mohyeddin has a degree in Religion and Middle Eastern
Studies from the University of Toronto and is also a graduate
of the American
Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
this page to your friends