Democracy Watch

February 7, 1996

 FDI warns against "Sham" elections


The Foundation for Democracy in Iran deplores the refusal of theIranian government to allow international observers to oversee theMarch 8 elections to the Iranian Parliament (Majlis), and calls onthe government to allow free and fair elections to be contested byall political parties, whether inside Iran or in exile.

Under the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, candidatesfor the Majlis must be approved by the Council of Guardians, aconclave of six clerics who are appointed by the Supreme Leader,Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i. They are assisted by six non-voting memberswho are chosen by the head of the Judiciary Branch, AyatollahMohammad Yazdi, (who is also chosen by the Supreme Leader), althoughthe non-voting members must be approved by a vote of Parliament. Intheory, this means that no candidates can stand for election unlessthey meet the personal approval of Ayatollah Khamene'i.

While the regime has allowed some jockeying among the rulingfactions, political parties have been banned from taking part in theelections. On Jan. 10, the government barred a moderate oppositiongroup which supports Islamic rule in Iran from holding a pressconference in Tehran to discuss the elections.

Even the radical Militant Clergy Association (MCA), which includesformer regime officials such as Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, MohsenKhoiniha, and Mehdi Karrubi, has protested the manner in which theelection lists are being selected by the regime. The MCA has refusedto put forward a slate of candidates, as it did in the last electionsfour years ago, when all of its candidates were defeated.

Chief Justice Mohammad Yazdi commented on the Islamic Republic'sinterpretation of democracy in a Friday prayer sermon delivered onJan. 19, broadcast on Tehran radio. "We do respect the popularsuffrage," Yazdi said. "But we say that it is not credible. Why?Because we regard the popular suffrage as subordinate to the will ofGod... It does not matter if it is a majority vote or a consensus. Aslong as the suffrage counters the will of God, it does notcount."

With regime officials displaying such open contempt for thedemocratic process, it comes as little surprise that oppositiongroups inside Iran such as the Iran Nation's Party, led by DarioushForouhar, or the Liberation Movement of Iran, led by Ibrahim Yazdi,have called on their supporters to boycott the elections.

Given the conditions under which the Majlis elections are beingprepared, the Foundation believes their outcome has little relevanceto the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. The Foundationwarns against seeing in the ritual scheduling of sham elections anexpression of the "gradual democratization" of Iran.


The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private,non-profit corporation registered in the State of Maryland.Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, Executive Director ( materials, including the FDI Newswire, are availablefree-of-charge via the Internet at