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Rouhani Says 'Formality' Elections The Biggest Danger For 'Democracy'

Iranian President Hassan Rohani chairs a cabinet meeting in Tehran, January 22, 2020
Iranian President Hassan Rohani chairs a cabinet meeting in Tehran, January 22, 2020

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has warned against holding elections as a “formality” and favoring one faction at the expense of others, less than four weeks before the parliamentary vote in February.

According to Islamic Republic’s constitution, the Guardian Council, an election watchdog, must give its seal of approval for every candidate registering to run in parliamentary and presidential elections. The Council was established to keep those not loyal to the system out of power.

However, the watchdog is guided by the Islamic Republic’s ideology and follows the wishes of the Supreme Leader and his allies. In this year’s elections, it has disqualified an extraordinary number of candidates, most from the so-called “reformist” camp loyal to the Islamic Republic. Close to 90 current members of parliament have been barred by the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council to run in February’s elections.

Speaking to a gathering of provincial governors, Rouhani stressed the importance of people’s voice and participation and warned that the biggest danger to democracy is formal elections. However, despite a semblance of elections, the Islamic Republic is not considered a democracy, with its violations of human rights, non-competitive elections and systematic clampdown on freedom of speech.

Rouhani also stressed the rule of law for sustaining what he said is the “legitimacy” of the current ruling system. He added, “It is very important for people to feel that they can choose one among several options”.

Rouhani, who has been under relentless pressure by hardliners, complained that the election watchdog has turned into an executive power and his government, which is consitutionally tasked to run the elections has turned into a simple operational entity.