Islamic Republic, Crisis of Legitimacy, Presidential Elections
The role of the people in determining the future of Iran, the duties of the president-elect in the laws of the Islamic Republic
In about a month, the Islamic Republic will experience a presidential election for the thirteenth time in its life. The government of the Islamic Republic is concerned about it because according to the events of January 2018, November 2019, and January 2020, which led to the bloodshed of thousands of Iranian protesters, today the majority of society believes in boycotting the elections. In the coming days, Iranians will once again become a “wise nation always ready to act” and ostensibly decide the fate of the country for the next 4 years. This issue has significant manifestations that will follow from the living conditions of the people to the major national issues and the international image of the country.
Before we go through that, we have to see what the legal consequences of this election are for Iran. Needless to say, the constitution of any country is a full-fledged mirror that defines the political framework of the country. Also, in this law, the tasks of major issues are specified. Principle 113 of the Iranian Constitution states: “After the Supreme Leader, the President is the highest official in the country and is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and the presidency of the executive branch, except in matters directly related to the Supreme Leader.” Therefore, the people will not elect the highest official of the country, but for the second person of the country, who, as he has sworn, is “the guardian of the official religion and the system of the Islamic Republic and the constitution” and “dedicate himself to serving the people, and the promotion of the country, the promotion of religion and morality, the support of the right and the spread of justice”, which, of course, in the last part usually rely on the principle of separation of powers and take a position to interfere in the work of the judiciary; Look at Zarif’s interviews when asking about Dual nationality or non-Iranian prisoners, such as Ahmad Reza Jalali. But presidential powers are limited to what is not within the competence of the first person of the country. These duties are set out in Article 110 of the Constitution as follows:
“The Leader’s functions and authority [consist of the following]:
- Defining the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with the State Expediency Council.
- Supervision of the proper execution of the general policies of the regime.
- Issuing of decrees for national referenda.
- The supreme command of the armed forces.
- Declaration of war and peace, and mobilization of the armed forces.
- Appointment, dismissal, and acceptance of the resignation of:
- The Islamic jurists (Mullahs) of the Guardian Council.
- The Head of the Judiciary.
- The Head of the radio and television network of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
- The Chief of the joint staff.
- The Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
- The Commanders-in-Chief of the armed forces and the Police forces.
- Resolving differences between the three powers of the State and regulation of their relations.
- Resolving problems irresolvable by conventional means through the State Expediency Council.
- Signing the President’s appointment orders after his election by the people. The competence of candidates for the Presidency, in respect of the qualifications specified in the Constitution, must be confirmed by the Guardian Council before elections, and also by the Leadership during the first term.
- Dismissal of the President, in consideration of the country’s interests, after the Supreme Court finds him guilty of violating his constitutional duties or following a vote of no confidence by the Islamic Parliament of Iran on the basis of Article 89.
- Pardon or reduction, within the framework of Islamic criteria, of the sentences of convicts upon the proposal of the Head of the Judiciary.
The Leader may delegate part of his functions and authority to another person.”
The duties of the president are of the program and budget affairs and administrative and employment affairs of the country as mentioned in principle 126 and one is to approve and sign the credentials of Iranian ambassadors abroad and accept the credentials of foreign ambassadors in accordance with principle 128 of this law. Therefore, the people vote for a person to manage the financial and administrative affairs of the country and have no more authority. As we have seen in principle 110, all fundamental powers and changes are in the scope of authority of the supreme leader.
If we take a good look, we realize that even the election of the president himself is futile as long as the supreme leader does not approve i.e., the supreme leader enforces the presidential decree. Enforcement means permission, but in the legal morphology, the difference between “permission” and “enforcement” has its roots in the time of occurrence; If w permission to do something is given before doing it, it is called “permission”, but if permission is given afterward, it will be called “enforcing” the action. For example, a father must give permission for his daughter to marry according to Iranian law, but if someone sells another’s property, the owner can enforce it later. Another point that lies in the word “enforcement” is the fulfillment of the will; “Enforcement” is rooted in the degrees of binding of legal action, and in the same example, the sale of property belonging to another, the contract is bound that the owner “enforces” it. It is seen that the election of the people is a shaky thing that becomes complete and valid with the “enforcement” of the supreme leader, and he can use such authority to refuse to enforce it, although in the past 43-year history of the Islamic Republic this has not happened.
As can be seen in paragraph 9 of principle 110, the qualifications of presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council, who are themselves elected by the leadership (6 Islamic jurists directly and 6 lawyers by head of the judiciary system, who himself is appointed directly by the supreme leader) in accordance with paragraph 6 of the same principle, i.e., indirectly approving the competencies of them by the supreme leader himself. The candidate must have the characteristics outlined in principle 115 as follows: “The President must be elected from among religious and political men possessing the following qualifications:
He must be of Iranian origin and an Iranian national, possess administrative and problem-solving skills, have a good track record, be trustworthy and pious, have faith and conviction in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the country’s official religion.” So, the first condition for candidacy is that he is a “religious and political man”; The “and” between the words “religious” and “political” indicates that being a politician alone is not enough and that one must possess both. Another point is the attribute of being “possess administrative and problem-solving skills”, how can this attribute be achieved? The ineffectiveness of this option is clear from the confirmation of Ahmadinejad’s eligibility for the election in 1996, and it is clear that the Guardian Council does not have a good benchmark. Another is “have faith and conviction in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the country’s official religion”. These are the principles of the general policies of the system which are determined in paragraph 1 of principle 110, therefore the approved candidate is a person who has proved his devotion and commitment to the supreme leader. In the pulpits of the mullahs of the Islamic Republic, we also hear that it has been said many times that a nation that has a supreme leader does not need elections and a presidency, but this is the supreme leader gift to the people to practice democracy. The supreme leader has repeatedly stated in his speeches: “Some candidate came and asked and I said, become a candidate or it is not right to become one now”. Therefore, all candidates are approved by the first person of the country, and in order to obtain this approval, they must have characteristics that are more or less the same in all of them. What remains is the difference in literature and the appearance of individuals.
This is exactly where the reformist strata of the Islamic Republic, who believe in returning to the “golden age of Imam Khomeini” – as they name it – enter the fray, trying to draw the line between bad and worse, and encouraging people to vote to avoid the worse being elected. Considering the above-mentioned facts:
- A) There no longer seems to be a choice between bad and worse, because it has become clear that the candidates are all the same at the root.
- B) What is the criterion of “being bad” so that “being worse” can be understood?
- C) Do Iranians make choices at all? Elections are an affirmative choice in the present era. In other words, the electorate says that I prefer one candidate over the other and I want him to come to power. In Iran, however, the choice is privative, that is, because they wish someone else be not elected, and because someone else is scarier, they vote so that he cannot be elected. In the opinion of the author of these lines, this privative choice is also irrelevant, because the Iranian voter votes neither for the head of state, nor change, but to an individual’s appearance. To refute this argument, it is enough to look at the latter election in Iran, four years ago, to see that people voted for Rouhani so that the Raeesi who was a member of the death squad in the 1980s, and Qalibaf, who was the commander of the police force during 1999 demonstrations, would not become president. Just a little later, Raeesi was appointed as the head of the judiciary system for 10 years and Qalibaf took over the presidency of the parliament. Therefore, there is no choice and later on, they are appointed in a position far more important than the president.
Others believe that the passivity of the people will cause an incompetent government to come to power and worsen the situation of the country and the people. Basically, what is the main impact of choosing an office person on the fate of the country, when all the policies of the country are adopted elsewhere? Iran’s election has only one counterpart, and that is the North Korean presidential election. The excitement of the people or their passivity will not have much effect either, because nothing special is going to happen and only the name of the second person will be changed, and of course a slight change in the political literature of the country.
Another group believes that the result is not as important as people showing their power and exercising their right. If the result is not important, then participating in the elections is useless. Although this is a seemingly clever statement, it is undoubtedly one of the sentences engineered by the regime to drag people to the polls. The tricks of the Islamic Republic in this regard are getting better day by day.
One of the first tricks that still persists today is to turn citizens’ identity documents, which should have a function of authentication, into a record of political participation. Following the first referendum after the Islamic Revolution, for the first time, ID documents were stamped after casting a ballot, and in the amendments to the Civil Registration Law in 1984, a page called the Stamping Page was added to the rest of the pages. For those who have a red ID document, this page has been attached to the ID document using a punch, and this page is available in all IDs after 1984. All of a sudden, the identity cards of the Iranians became their political record; This action caused families to line up from the youngest to the oldest in each election to have their IDS stamped so that they would not lose their jobs, and when someone denied, they said: “You vote blank or write nothing, but only come to have your ID stamped”. At least the author has not seen anyone face or be bothered by a particular difficulty in life because of this, but what comes to a curious mind is what is the necessity of a person’s identity document to become the record of his political activity? This page may have become a haven for harassing people. For example, someone had approached me as a lawyer and said that another person was blackmailing him not to reveal that his identity document was not stamped and that he too was afraid to sue in court on the ground of ab initio, be convicted of not voting.
This time, Similar to four years ago, in a smart move to counter the boycott of the elections, even the supreme leader invites the people of the nation to go to the election even if they do not agree with the system. This issue has two functions: first, in the international perspective, the Islamic Republic shows its power by displaying long queues of people waiting for their turn. Secondly, calling every election a referendum and arguing their legitimacy against the demands of the opposition inside and outside the country, who ask to hold a referendum.
Thus, the game is a win-win for the regime and a loss for the people, because, as discussed above, the Islamic Republic exploits its propaganda by the number of people participating in the election, on the one hand, and gains the legitimacy that they seek. On the other hand, one should know that even if his chosen one is not announced as elected, it does not matter, and if it does matter, it will be what we witnessed in 2009. But if we look closer, the result is not important, because as mentioned before, the difference between the candidates is only in appearance and nothing more. Here I recall when Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview with Swedish journalists in Stockholm, cited 73% took part in the election, and claimed that no European country is as democratic and legitimate as the Islamic Republic, and called the demonstrators insurgents.
Some argue that the only way Iran can move toward democracy is through reform, which may be somewhat true, especially considering the number of people willing to disintegrate, as well as the chaotic situation in neighboring countries. The revolution in Iran sounds inevitable, but it is doubtful that reforms would work. Are the reformists other than believers and committed to the Islamic Republic? Are their beliefs differ from those of the fundamentalists? In fact, these are not two different parties, but branches of the one-party called the Islamic Republic. As the case may be, sometimes clash and an orderly war breaks out. During the events of 1988, President Khatami (the head of reformists) had no reaction throughout the demonstrations, at which time Hassan Rouhani (then the head of Nation Security Council) ordered the crackdown on protesters or, in his own words, “villains”. All mentioned is dirty and mean game so that “the nation will always be in the scene of another epic” and this epic, of course, will not change anything in their life.
Ultimately, whether or not one taking part in the election and voting is an individual aspect. However, this should be bear in mind that there is a fine line between not making the space more closed and creating an open space, and not making it more ruined is different from development, which all depends on the policies of the system. But as per the arguments the regime makes, they are all weak and baseless, and people’s participation has no effect at all. Everything will go as before and following the general policies of the system. If any change in the status quo is needed, there is only one way: to change the constitution of the country, and this will not be possible but through the fall of the ruling regime and consequently a free referendum.
Some also say that political passivity causes the destruction of Iran and that no development can be done on the ruins. If there is Iran today, it is because of those who stood up, not those who were angry. This analogy is wrong. Because those who stood up, stood up against oppression and gave their lives for the sake of their homeland, but participating in the elections is neither against oppression nor corruption, which is a choice between those whose degree of oppression and corruption is variable. Iran that the regime claims today is becoming a developed country, was axed to the roots of secularism 43 years ago, its cultural and social roots shaken, and a country that was not far from being developed, lagging behind all its neighbors. Its situation gets worse day by day. The reasoning and thinking, spreading among the people of the society, are now replaced by ignorance and superstition. Those who had specialties were either executed or fled Iran (read forced exile) and were replaced by committed (read mercenaries) such as Ibrahim Reisi, Khalkhali, Mortazavi, and clerics. If one is opposing, it is not to participate in a planned appointment but to counter-propaganda.
One might think that in the midst of the enormous ISIL-like behavior, poverty and hunger, the drowning of a group of migrants in the high seas, and the expression of regret and concern of the UN Secretary-General, no message will be given to the world and only our participation in elections is a message to the regime. They think by choosing the reformists they show their hatred to the regime! But through not participating in the election, this message will be stronger. Just as the vote for the reformists, even if it is replaced by fraud, has a message that the people are dissatisfied, it gives hope to the system that with some flexibility it can survive, but the low participation has a stronger message that at least reaches the authorities, and that is the dissatisfaction of the people from the current regime. As the slogan that people chanted since January 1996 that “reformist, fundamentalist, your time is over”.
The consequence of this may be a minority rule over the majority, but it is not, as they claim, “nothing will fall out of legitimacy,” and of course this is the exact meaning of the imaginary composition of “religious democracy,” because it is in fact allotted to democracy. It is allocating the majority. No matter what the people vote for or not, they are ruled by a minority and in principle, nothing changes.
Meanwhile, a group of reformists, leading by Saeed Hajjarian and presenting by Faezeh Rafsanjani, are now active to save the Islamic Republic from being overthrown, and to confiscate the movement of the people, they are trying to say it is their idea to boycott the election. More interestingly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also said that if the Guardian Council assumes him as disqualified, he will ask his supporters to boycott the election. This action is a secondary flow so that if a small number of people are present, they will say that we have a stronger social base, and perhaps with the news that is heard these days that Khamenei is seriously ill and on the verge of death, after this electoral defeat, Khamenei dies suddenly. With the removal of the Supreme Leader and apparent reforms, the Islamic Republic will continue its existence. On the other hand, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls the country after the supreme leader, and is interpreted as the “government in the shadow” in Iran, has not been idle and with the cooperation of the supreme leader’s office, the project of “Guarantee of Allegiance” has begun. In recent days, the media of the Islamic Republic have repeatedly reported the arrest of individuals affiliated with ISIL, now with bombings in Khuzestan and Kurdistan, and then in other cities, seeking to declare martial law and conduct postal voting.
In any case, given all of the above, the existence of the Islamic Republic is a threat to the international community and world peace. The leaders of Hamas in Palestine and Hizballah in Lebanon have repeatedly acknowledged receiving funds and weapons from the Islamic Republic, and given that the foreign minister must be directly elected by the supreme leader, nothing should change in foreign policy. If ISIL and the Taliban make threats to the world, it is a more serious threat that has been threatening the world for 43 years in the name of the Islamic Republic, and unfortunately, it has the full support of globalists and leftists in the world, confirmation of this is the close relation of the Islamic Republic with China and Russia. Therefore, the fall of the Islamic Republic and the establishment of a secular and liberal-democratic system is the only way to guarantee permanent peace in the Middle East and, indeed, in the whole world.
Written by Kiarash Houshmand-Rahimi, the article was originally published on Houshmand.se
Institute of Capacity Building for Political Studies, (ICBPS) publishes articles, analyses, and reports online with no limit. ICBPS has been founded by a group of journalists and activists to provide a great opportunity for those freedom fighters who are being censored by mainstream media.
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