IRAN WATCH CANADA

Saturday, November 24, 2007


A Step towards Free Elections
Shirin Ebadi - Roozonline -2007.11.24

When the Iranian constitutional movement was on its way in the early days of the 20th ‎century, the Russian revolution had not yet taken place and the Tsars ruled their empire ‎like despots. In the West and North-West of Iran too, the Ottoman khalifs ruled with ‎despotic hands. In other parts of Asia and even in Japan the democratic movement had ‎not yet been launched.‎
The Iranian nation at that time was the first one to rise up for the establishment of ‎democracy. The constitutional revolution was the culmination of their efforts. But after ‎the passage of over a hundred years, the Iranian nation has unfortunately still not ‎succeeded in establishing democracy because of domestic and foreign reasons. We are ‎still far from having free elections I Iran because the most important feature of any ‎meaningful election is that people have the freedom to vote for anyone they wish. This is ‎still a dream for Iranians. And while the first constitution that was drafted after the 1979 ‎Islamic revolution contained provisions for such elections, subsequent laws that were ‎passed denied this right to the people.‎
During the pre-revolutionary regime and even today, much has been said about free ‎elections and the demand for them has been aired. And this begs the questions as to what ‎exactly are free elections. The fact is that plenty of work needs to be done to just come up ‎with the criteria for free elections. It is generally said that the appointed Guardians ‎Council is an obstacle to free elections in the country. But the problem is larger and wider ‎than just that. For example, even if we did not have this appointed supervision by the ‎Council, candidates for public office need to enjoy equal access to public and government ‎media to communicate with the masses, which if they do not have, would preclude any ‎free elections. So there are different standards by which to judge whether elections are ‎free or not.‎
In this regard, the Kanoone Modafean Hoghoogh’e Bashar (Center for the Defense of ‎Human Rights) created a committee to study this issue based on international law, ‎including the various Human Rights conventions and declarations to which Iran has ‎adhered to, and announce the standards for holding free elections, and pursue to have ‎them implemented. The work of this group is based on the commitments that the Islamic ‎republic of Iran has towards international arrangements. In other words, it is in view of ‎these obligations that this working group will study the laws supervising elections and ‎conclude whether and which ones are being followed by the government of Iran and ‎specific government agencies involved in the process of elections.‎
Members of this group have been long-time promoters and activists of freedom and have ‎thus won the respect of the public. They have come up with election standards after ‎discussing the issue amongst themselves. The next step therefore is the announcement of ‎the degree to which Iran’s government has adhered to these standards and its ‎international obligations in this regard. The next step would be to follow up the findings ‎to implement the shortcomings.‎
Shirin Ebadi is the Nobel Peace Prize winner and a regular contributor to Rooz Online.‎
We must not forget that a mere 20+ years ago, mere talk of human rights and modern ‎values in Iran was a taboo imposed by many politicians. When these people wanted to ‎denounce someone they would call them “a liberal” or a supporter of democracy and ‎human rights (because they were Western values). Today, however, because of the ‎continuous and incessant work of human rights advocates and activists, this issue has ‎become a national virtue so that even those politicians who in practice violate the ‎principles of democracy and human rights strive to present themselves to be supporters of ‎these rights.‎
In continuation of these activities, work must continue to create the cultural foundations ‎for this so that public awareness about the requirements for free elections becomes ‎universal. ‎
And finally it should be overlooked that only through the materialization of these ‎conditions will the people of Iran be able to create the environment that would allow the ‎holding of free and fair elections, after the passage of a century of such efforts.‎

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