It's not democracy. It's a joke. It's certain that a majority are not going to vote. But that's not enough
June 8, 2005 iranian.com
Interview with leader of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran Hamid Taqvaee which was broadcast on TV International English. Maryam Namazie is the host of TV International English, Central Council Member of the Organisation of Women's Liberation and Director of the International Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.
Maryam Namazie: The Islamic Republic of Iran is holding its presidential 'election' on June 17. You have stated this is not a real election. Why do you say that?
Hamid Taqvaee: Actually by any standards, these cannot be called elections. The first reason is that in the Islamic Republic of Iran there is no political freedom. No non-Islamic party or one that is not somehow connected with the regime can be active in Iran. With or without elections, there is no free political activity allowed. Moreover, all opposition groups are either in exile, in prison or their members have been executed. Under such conditions, an election does no make any sense. An election, in which no opposition political party is allowed to take part, is a total fraud. The regime can't even afford to conduct an election amongst those parties affiliated with itself and thereby legal in Iran. Even amongst them, the election is not free.
The election is nothing but a show, a fraud and big lie. The different factions of the government, based on their status and power at any given moment when the election comes round, introduce some candidates; based on their behind the scenes negotiations and compromises, someone is pulled out of the hat as president. The people of Iran know this, and few will be taking part in it this time round.
You've raised many issues and questions. I do want to address them each individually. One of the things you mentioned is the candidates allowed to run in this election. Only six out of the 1,014 prospective candidates were eligible to compete in the election as decided upon by the Council of Guardians. That is less than 1 percent. Some say this is the main reason elections are not fair is because the Council of Guardians are using unfair and arbitrary measures and if the Council of Guardians, an unelected body, did not intervene and have veto power, it would then be fair. Your comments?
This is only part of the problem and not even the main issue here. Of course having a body like the Council of Guardians, which filters out candidates not approved by the system and Khamenei who is the 'Supreme Spiritual Leader', is fraudulent but that is still not the main issue. Even if the Council of Guardians did not select the candidates, because of the lack of political freedoms, it would still not be fair. Innumerable members of opposition groups have been executed and exiled. Political opposition groups have been banned and cannot participate in political life; there is no freedom of speech, association, organisation, and media. Under such conditions, elections cannot be fair.
If one tenth of what was happening in Iran took place elsewhere, such as in the Ukraine, the election would be condemned and deemed illegal by many western governments, the media and election watch dogs. But in Iran it is still called an election by western states and the media as they don't want public opinion to know that it is nothing but a farce.
Some would say there are guidelines for eligibility in all elections. For example, you have to be a US citizen to run in the US. Those banned in Iran included 81 unemployed people, 19 teenagers, and 250 people without a secondary-school diploma. What is wrong with bans then — aren't there always some form of ban in elections?
It's a joke. You cannot compare Iran with the sort of democracy found in the west. Of course we don't approve of that sort of democracy either like in the USA where only two main parties because of money, influence and other factors can really participate and run every 4 years. But even with that sort of democracy, what is taking place in Iran is incomparable. On paper, if you are not a Muslim, and a Shia Muslim at that, you cannot become a candidate for the election. If you are a Muslim and don't agree with the Supreme Spiritual leader, again you cannot take part in the elections. That's the issue. The issue is not civil conditions, such as citizenship and education — whether you agree or disagree with them that's another point.
In Iran based on your approval of the government and government policies, and even not the government — but that faction of the government that has the upper hand — then you have no chance of even becoming a candidate let alone being elected. So in Iran by any standards, it is not an election or even a selection. It is a show for that faction of the regime that has the upper hand to run the show and ensure the election of a president from that faction. This is the situation in every presidential election in Iran.
Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader, says one has to show commitment to the political system and practical adherence to Islam as it is an Islamic Republic so candidates must obviously be judged by Islamic criteria.
Khamenei cannot have it both ways. Either you have an Islamic Republic or you have some sort of democracy. You cannot have both at the same time. We have been against the Islamic Republic from the beginning, not just because of its elections but because it is a criminal and barbaric government that has killed over 100 thousand people and under its rule, there are no rights for women or people. That's the main reason. And that's the Islamic Republic. So don't try to play a game and show that the Islamic Republic has some sort of elections. You don't have elections. If you want to select somebody from those who agree with you and belong to the faction with the upper hand — and not even someone from the other faction — then you cannot call it an election. Just say, we determine a president based on Islamic criteria.
The people in Iran are saying to hell with your Islam and selections. They are saying we don't want you or your selections. Their propaganda has no influence in Iran now; they have no base any longer. It has become a joke amongst the people.
But some say voter turnout is a lot higher than many western democracies, for example Khatami was voted in with 70% of the votes. Some would say it shows the regime has legitimacy.
First of all, those days are past. In the election for Khatami, people turned out to vote in order to say no to Khamenei, the supreme spiritual leader, and his candidate. Khatami was from the other faction of the government, which is the main reason why people voted for him. But that was the last time this happened. Since then, all elections have been boycotted by the people and they have not voted for any faction or candidate. It is also important to note that in Iran, many are forced to vote by restrictions imposed on them if they don't. For example, youth are told they won't be able to attend university or have ID cards renewed if they don't have a stamp confirming they voted so many will face problems if they don't vote.
Another issue that has come up is that women are automatically banned from running in the elections. Azam Taleghani, a banned candidate, says this is a misinterpretation of Islam.
Again, you cannot be a Muslim and a liberal or a Muslim and then talk of elections. The issue of interpretation is an excuse for that faction of the government which says that Islam is good; that they can rule via Islam and the Koran; and have an Islamic government and at the same time, fair elections. Rubbish! This is not possible. Of course women are not allowed to participate according to the Islamic Republic's constitution. The constitution says presidential candidates have to be men. Whether this is based on Islam or not — no one really cares! It is not fair for women in Iran.
But again that is not the main point. Even men are not allowed to take part. Of course it is much worse for women because in all aspects of society not just the elections, women are denied basic rights. That's a fact. But as far as elections are concerned, there is no political freedom, making it a show and farce.
What are you calling on people in Iran to do?
It's certain that a majority are not going to vote. But that is not enough. We are calling on people to actively protest and they have begun to do so, such as the students, workers, women, and so on. Prior to the election, if a candidate holds a public meeting, we are calling on people to disrupt it and expose the farce and to do the same on 'election day'. We are calling on people to organise themselves against the election. We want to show the entire world that this so-called election is not accepted by the people of Iran. The people are against the Islamic Republic of Iran and will be voicing their opposition on the streets of Iran.
What's the difference between your position and those calling for a boycott, including members of the reformist faction in the regime?
A boycott happens automatically. We have seen this during the Islamic Assembly elections. Boycotting is nothing new for people. It doesn't show people what to do. That's what they are going to do anyway. As I said, most people are not going to participate in the election. So if a party or a faction of the government calls for a boycott, they are merely following what people are already doing. What is needed is to lead people. Leading people means that this time you have to have an active position against the election and call on people to come out onto the streets and demonstrate against the election. Our tactic is that we mustn't allow this farce to take place as usual. This depends on the people of Iran. We are calling on them not only not to vote but to actively protest.
I have been reading comments that calling on people not to vote will promote a form of political apathy. I'm sure you don't agree; why not?
Some say people should vote for Rafsanjani as he can solve the situation with the USA.
What would you call on people to do internationally in order to support the people of Iran?
The first step is to inform public opinion, the media, trade unions, rights organisations, institutions, etc. on the truth about the election in Iran. They should know that this is not an election by any standards. That it is nothing but fraud and a political lie. They should know that the people of Iran will not participate and will actively oppose it. They shouldn't listen to the propaganda of the regime. The other step is that we ask them to condemn this election and speak out against it. This is what the Worker-communist Party is organising towards.