Stitch Up

Here’s a useful guide to the hoops through which you would have had to have jumped had you wanted to put yourself forward as a candidate in today’s presidential election in Iran.

If you’re male, Muslim and over 25 you’re on the right track but make sure you’re not too critical of the status quo:

All hopefuls for high elected office must be cleared by the Guardian Council, a 12-member body of clerics and scholars loyal to the ruling theocracy. The council often rejects potential candidates considered too liberal or critical of the Islamic system. For Friday’s election, just eight of more than 1,000 possible candidates were allowed.

They say the government always wins the elections. Too true in the case of Iran.

Harry adds: But The Guardian’s Jonathan Steele has a different view.

Few can complain there is no choice, at least (a big caveat) among male candidates – women were barred from running. The eight men range from reformers to conservatives, which means the electoral options are wider than in any Arab country, including Iraq. Washington’s democracy-promoters should focus their attentions on Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, rather than Iran.

Some Iranians, including respected human rights advocates, are calling for a boycott; their concern is not that the choice is narrow, but that whoever wins will be politically impotent and that, by participating, voters will legitimise a phoney system. The dilemma is similar to the one Iraqis faced in January. Those who urged a boycott claimed the election would legitimise the US occupation and produce a government that would not be sovereign. It was a reasonable argument, and western commentators who claim Iraq’s election was a triumph of democracy while Iran’s is hollow need to be sure they are not using double standards.

The differences between the Iranian and Iraqi elections are numerous and of course there is a major difference between those who called for a boycott. In Iran it is pro-democracy activists leading the call while in Iraq it was an ethnic- based rejection from some Sunni groups.

There was no vetting procedure in Iraq, in fact the authorities went out of their way to encourage as many groups as possible to participate. The Communists, to take just one example, stood many candidates across the country while in Iran communist organisations are illegal.

Western commentators who believe there is “no shortage of choice” in Iran’s elections but believe Iraq’s elections were ‘illegitimate’ or ‘fake’ need to be sure they are not using double standards.