The people of Iran face a choice on February 20th. Should they vote in controlled parliamentary elections in which thousands of candidates were not allowed to run? Or should they boycott what many consider to be an illegitimate process?
Out of eight-thousand candidates, more than one-third were disqualified by Iran’s twelve-member Council of Guardians. This unelected group wields enormous power in Iran’s theocratic system. The Council of Guardians reviews all laws and screens political candidates for ideological, political, and religious suitability.
In 2000, the parliament elected by Iranian voters had a clear majority in favor of change. But since then, numerous reforms passed by the parliament have been vetoed by the Council of Guardians.
This time around, hundreds of candidates have pulled out to protest the council’s heavy-handed tactics. Many ordinary Iranians are also calling for a boycott of the elections.
As a student named Reza said, “I don’t see any reason to vote. Hard-liners have insulted the wisdom of the Iranian nation by restricting people’s choice.”
Other Iranians go even further. Kourosh says, “With not voting in the elections, I condemn the constitution of [the] Islamic Republic of Iran, the Guardian Council, the supreme religious leader, and the dictatorship.”
In Iran or any other country, says U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, genuinely “free and fair elections should be the norm”:
“The decisions about who can govern a country are best made by the citizens of that nation through an open and transparent process.”
One way or another, on February 20th, the unelected rulers of Iran will hear from the people.