{mosimage}The House Magazine, By Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: What, asked the young man outside the mosque in Qom the day before Iran’s general election last week, is the point of voting, "when the results are known in advance"?


The Parliamentary Weekly * No 1254 * Vol 33 * March 24, 2008 - Page 36


{mosimage}The House Magazine

Lord Corbett believes this month’s election in Iran was a travesty of democracy



By Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

What, asked the young man outside the mosque in Qom the day before Iran’s general election last week, is the point of voting, "when the results are known in advance"?

The Guardian reporter, Julian Borger, said Mujtaba Mivehchizadeh and his mates worried about youth unemployment and galloping inflation in a country where seven out of ten are under the age of 30.

The farce of the elections was illustrated during the day itself when the state-run news agency ISNA reported a turnout of 124 per cent at Varzaqan, East Azerbaijan. Earlier some 2,700 would-be candidates were barred for ‘un-Islamic sentiments’ by the unelected religious Guardians’ Council, including former MPs and ministers.

No wonder the EU Presidency dubbed the poll as ‘neither fair nor free’, adding that they ‘did not allow for truly competitive elections’.

The mullahs used every fiddle going to boost turn-out figures. Brigadier General Alireza Afshar, director of elections in the Ministry of Interior, simply ignored figures from the National Statistics Bureau showing 49,500,000 people of voting age by clipping six million off the figure to swell the phantom turn-out. And votes could be bought for $25 in Abidan, $15 in Gilan and up to $50 in Elam, with a free lunch thrown in for rural voters bussed into urban polling stations.

Iran’s fanatical theocracy, underpinned by the Revolutionary Guard which the US labels as a terrorist organization, dare not risk fair and free elections. The Iranian Resistance, which monitored turn-out at 25,000 of the 45,000 polling stations, claims that only five in every 100 people voted, responding to its call for a boycott.

The mullahs have not just made themselves look silly at home and abroad, but know whatever support they may have had is fast evaporating. The 95 per cent who stayed at home means that military and government workers too refused to take part in this polling stunt.

In any case the parliament – Majilis – is only consultative, with the theocrats on the Guardians’ Council and the appointed-for-life Supreme Leader having a veto over it. So a double lock: permit only the candidates who can be trusted to stand, and then do not entirely trust them.

Whichever of the four religious factions is said to be on the up, the fact is that since the Revolutionary Guards installed one of their own as President, in the shape of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the extremists have tightened their grip. They all have the same agenda, so it is just a matter of the degree of repression. No faction is calling for free elections, an end to public hangings from cranes, or of amputations and eye gougings.

The long-suffering public wonders why petrol is rationed in a country with the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves, and why there is insufficient refining capacity when it can seemingly afford nuclear weapons development, with rampant inflation and a highly educated people with far too few jobs on offer.

The extremist regime will doubtless push on with its nuclear programme, now scattered across at least 12 sites, the better to conceal and continue the brutal suppression of those who dissent.

This election is yet another signal to our own and other governments to stop appeasing the mullahs and to treat the Resistance as allies in the campaign to turn back the menace of rampant fundamentalism. It helps to kill British and other coalition troops in Iraq, helps thwart the Palestinian peace process by financing and arming Hamas and bids, through Hezbollah, to unseat a fragile democracy in Lebanon.

What other incentive does the UK need to back the millions in Iran who cry freedom rather than those who have stolen it from them?