Thursday, March 13, 2008

Strangling democracy in Iran

Iran goes to the polls tomorrow in Parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, as with many elections recently,it seems they will be neither free nor fair. Iran's Islamic constitution allows the unelected Guardian Council to veto candidates, and this power has been used ruthlessly to ensure only conservatives are allowed to stand. The result is like an election in the old Soviet Union - you can vote, but only for a Party member conservative.

How bad is it? Back in December, reformists and moderates formed a broad coalition to contest the elections, but over 90% of their candidates were disqualified. The Islamic Iran Participation Front - a reformist group which four years ago was the largest party in the Majlis - has no candidates this time round. Throw in restrictions on public meetings (legal if you're a conservative; illegal if you're not), and a very short campaign in which advertising is banned, and the result is completely one-sided. Iran's democracy, which was looking so healthy six years ago (until Bush put his foot in his mouth and provoked a nationalist backlash) has effectively been strangled.