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If Everybody Is There!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ali Akbar Abdolrashidi 

Active ImageWell-done Iran! The current enthusiasm for participation in the presidential election as well as political and social circumstances in Iran is not only unprecedented in the country, but also in the whole Asia and a large part of Africa and Middle East.

Our country lacks a democratic historical background. Before Islam, all key posts were given to the royalty and even under the rule of Parthian kings, the situation was similar. Nobody ever asked for people’s opinion. After the advent of Islam, apart from early decades, the governments were ruled by caliphs from Umayyad or Abbasid families or Mongol, Turk, and Tartar occupiers.

The first sparks of democracy were seen in the short period of constitutionalism which was followed by the establishment of the National Consultative Assembly. Although the National Consultative Assembly should have been called the Islamic Consultative Assembly according to an edict which was signed by Mozaffar-ed-din Shah, it was not called so until the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Elections following the constitutionalism were mainly limited to parliamentary polls in addition to municipal elections. However, there were only few instances when people’s votes determined the fate of elections especially after empowerment of Pahlavi monarchs up to 1979.

In those days, some Majlis deputies who were powerful local landlords bought the needed votes by giving a lunch or dinner and even in that case, if that candidate was not approved by the royal family, his votes were not counted.

Therefore, people called them representatives of government instead of people. Majlis deputies were usually chosen out of nobles and those who were affiliated to the royal court and election was just a sham. Most deputies were not known to ordinary people and were even not living in the constituency for which they had been elected.

The bitter reality is that following the military coup d’état on August 19, 1953, when Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq was still in jail and when he was exiled to Ahmadabad, the names of some members of the Tudeh Party or nationalist figures were given among candidates who were trusted by the royal system and some of them entered the parliament.

Our people entered the age of the Islamic Revolution with that historical background and due to lack of voting experience, they needed social and political training to avail of the right for which constitutional fighters had fought and laid down their lives.

There have been many instances of voting after the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Everybody knows that all political and social leaders have tried to encourage a high election turnout. As the election time approaches, the media as well as political and social circles become more active to encourage people to take part in elections.

A problem still remains, which is indifference of some people toward elections and voting. A glance at election turnout figures shows that the number of actual voters is far from the number of eligible voters and although that distance exists in all societies, but in our country it happens in the context of several developments.

Firstly, opponents of the Islamic Republic are not willing for a majority vote to come out of the ballot boxes. They consider the democratic nature of the Islamic Republic incompatible with their propaganda.

As proven in the past three decades, people’s election turnout increases legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. Therefore, the enemies resort to every means to discourage people and lower the number of votes. In that case, a president elected through a minority vote would be called representative of the same minority.

Another reason for a low election turnout is that some eligible voters do not consider voting as part of their social and political life. They are usually staunch critics of Majlis deputies or presidents and their criticism serves to justify their absence in the election day because they know that if somebody wants to see his/her favorite president in power, they should vote.

Abstention from voting is a social and political malady which is the result of a chronic historical ailment in our country. We must remedy that ailment and, if only for the sake of the next generation, we must teach our children that everybody should take part in voting.

It would be better if everybody took their children with them to show them how their future is decided and get them used to voting. We should not let that chronic historical ailment to be transferred to next generations.

Democracy is a manifestation of social justice. Regardless of the purpose of election, it is a manifestation of democracy. Counting on people’s votes is the fundament of civil participation.

Participation of all people in the election is a stride toward institutionalization of democracy. It will be demonstration of unity. So, when Friday comes, everybody should be there to cast their votes.

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review