Iran’sPresidential Election Process
The electoral system of Iran is solely based on Islamic order by“popular will.” The president is elected directly by popularvote. The disputed 2009 election signaled that the previously fairlymanaged elections were turning “unipolar.” They insinuated theexclusion of some reformists. The 2013 presidential elections were,however, free, fair and undisputed in such a manner that ensured thatthe country regained its lost glory. Which is the legally acceptablepresidential election process of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Is itdemocratic? This paper provides a comprehensive discussion inresponse to these questions.
According to the Iranian constitution, the president should beelected from one of the religious and political personalities of theIranian origin and nationality. In addition to this, they should havethe administrative capacity, resources, good record and an innatebelief in the fundamentals of the Islamic Republic of Iran and thecountry’s official religion. The entire presidential election issupervised and monitored by the Guardian Council. Besides, thecouncil sets the guidelines and establishes a Central SupervisoryCommittee (CSC) which designates a supervisor for each county(Bakhash, 2013). The role of supervisors is to monitor each pollingstation and submitting reports to the CSC for review. The GuardianCouncil has the right to suspend, cancel or stop the presidentialelection process at any point based on the review.
In collaboration with, but under, the CSC is the Ministry of Interior(MOI) that forms an elections center. The center creates county-levelexecutive committees that make decisions regarding number andlocation of polling stations. Besides, the committees perform therole of general oversight of complaints and violations if they occur.On early 2013, the Iranian Parliament made amendments to presidentialelections law to provide room for the Central Executive ElectionBoard (CEEB). The board’s main role is to supervise MOI’selection supervision processes.
The active presidential election process begins with registration ofcandidates as per Article 115 of the Iranian Constitution and Article35 of presidential elections law. The primary eligibilityrequirements appear as they were pointed out earlier. It is mandatorythat candidates register with the MOI are they have any intentions toparticipate in the elections. This takes five days. Their list isthen submitted to the Guardian Council by MOI that takes five days tovet each of them. After a comprehensive vetting process, the councilsubmits a list of the approved candidates to MOI which announces thempublicly. Reasons for disapproval of some of the candidates are notannounced publicly but in private.
Unlike many other democratic republics, Iran does not conductpre-election voter registration processes for maintenance of a voterregister. All sane Iranians aged 18 years and above are eligible tovote. Anyone can vote at any polling station as long as they areeligible. An eligible voter is only required to show up on theElection Day. The campaign period begins as soon as the list ofapproved presidential candidates is released and ends 24 hours to theElection Day. It is a constitutional requirement that the mediashould provide equal access to each of the candidates (Roukema,2014). To see to it that this law has been adhered to, MOIestablishes a media house oversight committee. All media ads must bepre-recorded. It is illegal to defame other candidates, advertiseduring Friday prayer sermons, and use government institutions forpublicity.
On the Election Day, voters present their birth certificate orshenasnameh after which they are allowed to cast their votessecretly. It is difficult for MOI to track voter locations due tolack of voter register but there are other means for fraud detection.Polls typically close at 8 pm, and the counting process begins.Observation is done by MOI’s executive committee, Guardian Council,provincial governor and candidate’s representatives. Voters outsidethe country are also given the opportunity to do so via personalballots prepared by the executive committee a few days before theelection. As pointed out earlier, the individual who garners thepopular vote is announced as the president a few days after theElection Day.
The Iranian presidential election process can be characterized asdemocratic. One of the main features than insinuates democracy is theability of all adult citizens to participate in the electionsirrespective of their location. This makes voting accessible andincreases the probability of an eligible citizen to vote therebyimproving the level of participation. Besides, every citizen has onlyone chance to vote, and each vote carries equal weight no votes areregarded as better than others. Also, the Iranian presidentialelection process provides choices. There are several people vying forthe position and, therefore, voters have a variety to choose from.Critics point out that the presidential candidate vetting process bythe Guardian Council undermines the democratic nature of the processby reducing the choices available to the voter (Edwards & Wayne,2013). They argue that the voter should be the sole determiner of whoshould vie and who should not. Even so, the process remainsdemocratic because the council ensures that the remaining choices aresufficient for the voters.
In addition to the main features that prove that Iran’spresidential election is a democratic one is the fact that theinterests of the minorities are put into consideration. For instance,the executive committee provides an opportunity for voters outsidethe country (the minority) to vote. Besides, their votes carry avalue that is similar to that of internal voters. In addition tothis, the most preferred candidate is declared the way (Bormann &Golder, 2013). Voter’s preference is determined by counting thenumber of valid votes. This forms the basis of the election’sdemocracy. It is by declaring the most preferred candidate as thewinner that majority of the stakeholders (including the voters)affirm that the election process was democratic. Iran’s electionsare also held in a free and fair manner. This implies that the peopleare positioned well enough to cast their vote for any candidate oftheir choice in a free and fair manner.
To wrap things up, the primary foundation of the Iranian presidentialelection process is Islamic order by ‘popular will.` The mainplayers in the process include MOI, the Guardian Council, CSC, CEEBand the executive committee. The Guardian Council and the MOI takethe primary roles. It exhibits key features of a democratic electionprocess. Among them include its free, fair and regular nature, theachievement of the will of the majority, the consideration of thewill of the minority, accessibility of voting and high level ofparticipation. Besides, all votes carry equal value. Despite the factthat it also poses as a rigging threat, the absence of voterregistration and poll specification provides considerable freedom tovoters and voting accessibility.
Bakhash, S. (2013). Iran’s pivotal presidential election. WilsonCenter Middle East Program, 18, 4-5.
Bormann, N. C., & Golder, M. (2013). Democratic electoral systemsaround the world, 1946–2011. Electoral Studies, 32(2),360-369.
Edwards, G. C., & Wayne, S. J. (2013). Presidentialleadership: Politics and policy making. Cengage Learning.
Roukema, B. F. (2014). A first-digit anomaly in the 2009 Iranianpresidential election. Journal of Applied Statistics, 41(1),164-199.