February 20, 2004

Ballot Initiative


The New York Times reports on today's Iranian "elections":

Many city walls that were plastered with election posters in previous elections are almost bare this time. Text messages circulated anonymously on mobile phones are urging people to shun the vote. "The ballot boxes are coffins for freedom," said one message. "Let's not participate in the funeral of freedom on Friday." [Emphasis added]

'Free Iran' News has posted an excellent Michael Ledeen op-ed: Stalinist Mullahs.

The other great lesson is that many Iranians, when pushed to the wall by the tyrants, do indeed have the courage to fight back. In an unprecedented step, more than 100 reformers issued a letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which they used language more traditionally reserved for greater and lesser satans in Washington and Jerusalem. They surely know that punishment will be severe, but they did it anyway. One fine day such shows of courage will inspire the Iranian people to defend them en masse, fill the public spaces of the major cities with demonstrators, and demand an end to the regime. And one fine day such actions will compel the Bush administration to support the Iranian people. And on that day the regime will fall, and with it the keystone to the international terror network with which we are at war.

UPDATE: An Iranian student group is reporting: Iranians Massively Boycott Sham Elections.

Reports from most Iranian cities are stating about the massive popular boycott of the Islamic regime's sham elections. Millions of Iranians have stayed home and afar from official ballot boxes in order to show the rejection of the Islamic republic in its totality. Reports from Shiraz, Mashad, Kerman, Malayer, Abadan, Bookan, Esfahan, Tabriz, Marivan, Amol, Sannandaj, Oroomiah (former Rezai-e) and Gonabad are all stating about dead cities in another show of massive Civil Disobedience.

And: Regime 'Collects Votes' In Remote Villages.

Reports from some remotes villages of Mazandaran province are stating about an organized "collection" of "votes" by the Islamic regime's militiamen. Villagers have been forced to vote as armed militiamen are presenting them ambulent ballot boxes and explaining them the "advantages" of their "participation". The regime is using such process in order to compensate its fiasco in the cities which are under the watch of many foreign observers.

(Both stories via stefania and 'Free Iran' News)

UPDATE 2: From The Eyeranian:

More than one source describe how empty Tehran streets are compared to normal, on this day the regime has advertised as the day the nation will come out to vote for their appointed parliament.

The Eyeranian is an American-based blog about Iran that was featured in a CNN report yesterday: Iran's bloggers fear clampdown.

And IranFilter pointed to this Boston Globe op-ed: Iran's meaningless vote.

In response to the thuggish tactics of the hard-liners, reformists have called for a boycott of the elections. Their logic might make sense to them, caught as they are between rivals who change the rules of the game at will and a public that has voted at least four times for change only to be cheated out of meaningful change. But the idea of a boycott has led the reformists into an impasse of paradoxes.

They say a ballot cast today is a vote for undemocratic elections. Conversely, a refusal to participate becomes a vote in favor of democracy. Iran's eligible voters -- there are 46 million of them -- may be excused for suffering a bout of vertigo from trying to follow this reasoning. They are being asked to believe that democracy requires one not to vote or that the act of voting identifies the voter as someone who actively rejects democracy.

UPDATE 3: 'Free Iran' News is declaring a boycott victory against the clerical regime by the Iranian people. The Independent reports: Low turnout in Iranian election after banning of 2,300 candidates.

Early indications of urban voting patterns suggested that people had stayed away from polling stations amid widespread disillusionment with the electoral process.[...]

Most voters who turned out appeared to be diehard conservatives or religious people who had been told it was their duty to vote. Others said they wanted the official mark on their identity card showing they had voted. There have been rumours recently that proof of electoral participation would ease government job or university applications. "My only reason to vote is not to get into trouble taking exams. I've been picking names from the list at random," said Fereshteh, a 20-year-old woman outside a north Tehran polling station.

UPDATE 4: Reza Bayegan at Iran Va Jahan offers this post-election analysis: Wish-list Unites Iranians.

With the disappearance of the last vestiges of hope for democratic transformation within the existing political system, the Iranian opposition to clerical dictatorship is closing ranks and converging on items of a common agenda for the future of the country. [...]

Hashim Aghageri, a leading Iranian dissident reacting to the massive disqualification of reformist candidates by the Guardian Council has declared that Iran's reform movement is finished. In an open letter published by the Iranian news agency ISNA, this history professor who is a reformist himself said that hopes for mending the system from within are over and he advises Iranians to oppose the regime through passive resistance. Passive resistance or civil disobedience is one of the items on the wish-list, which is uniting Iranian activists from all over the political spectrum.

UPDATE 5 -- Feb. 21: Iran Va Jahan has posted an excellent editorial from The Times (U.K.) regarding the "elections": Dictatorial Democracy: A Vote of No Confidence in Iran.

Yesterday's general election in Iran was as cynical and undemocratic as anything an Orwellian state could devise, with a self appointed clerical elite forcing a cowed press and subservient religious establishment to hail the "democratic" outcome of an election shorn of all but the trappings of democracy. [...]

[T]he derisory turnout is a blow to the Guardian Council and its allies. Many in the hardline camp do not care: their preoccupation has been to protect their own personal wealth, often corruptly amassed through state approved quasi-religious monopolies, and to stop any judicial investigation of their own abuses of power. But the election leaves Iran's neighbours and those countries such as Britain insisting on "critical engagement" with a problem. How much should they continue with business as normal?

Jack Straw may have believed it essential to keep lines open to Tehran, especially during the Iraq war and the tense aftermath. But the Foreign Secretary's frequent visits to Iran have done naught to bolster reform. Dialogue with a country as strategic as Iran is important; but endorsing a hardline regime is the worst kind of appeasement.

Posted by Forkum at February 20, 2004 12:00 AM