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Proposed Change In Election Law Will Lead To 'Apartheid' For Minorities

Supporters of newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dance during a gathering to celebrate his victory on Vanak square in downtown Tehran, May 20, 2017

A member of Iranian parliament’s Commission for Councils and Internal Affairs has announced that the law for “for the participation of religious minorities in elections is going to be amended”, Tasnim, a news website run by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps reported on Friday, October 3.

Mohammad Mahmoudi Shahneshin disclosed that based on a motion to amend the law, “Religious minorities are required to vote only for candidates who are from their denomination”.

According to the MP, the speaker of the parliament, Ali Laijani orderedArticle 26 of elections law to be amended. “Therefore, a taskforce has been formed…to review Article 26, clarify it and present the outcome as a motion to parliament”.

Meanwhile, Mahmoudi Shahneshin insisted that the Article will be amended in a way as to satisfy both the Guardian Council and the religious minorities.

However, he did not elaborate how this can be done, when the Guardian Council has recently ruled that a non-Muslim cannot get elected to a body which makes decisions affecting Muslims.

Furthermore, if amending the law would mean that Muslims cannot vote for minority candidates, practically the latter can never win in an election. Religious minorities do not constitute a majority in any district or city in Iran.

Article 26 of the law permits followers of all the constitutionally recognized religions—Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism—to run as candidates in elections.

Controversy over the elections law for religious minorities’ candidates started after the Court of Administrative Justice, following the widely published opinion of the Guardian Council’s chairman ayatollah Ahmad Jannati on the matter, cancelled a Zoroastrian’s membership in Yazd City Council.

After four years of service at Yazd City Council, Sepanta Niknam, 32, was reelected and ranked 7th for the 11-member council. Nevertheless, based on Jannati’s interpretation as an Islamic jurist, the Governor of Yazd ordered his membership to be suspended.

Jannati’s argues that a non-Muslim cannot make decisions affecting Muslims.

In an interview with Radio Farda, a Paris based Iranian analyst, Morteza Kazemian dismisses the idea of classifying citizens according to their denominations as an effort toward formalizing an apartheid system in Iran.

“It would be a milestone in the history of the Islamic republic if the parliament submits to Islamic jurists’ interpretation of the case and amends the law accordingly. Amending Article 26 will lead to a new round of the ruling system’s denial of citizen’s fundamental rights”.