May 6, 2005

ONE SMALL STEP FOR THE CONSTITUTION, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR IRAN:

The men who would be Iran's president (Bill Samii, 5/07/05, Asia Times)

Iran's next president will play a key role in shaping the country's domestic political climate as well as its relationship with the rest of the world. Will incumbent Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's successor be a conservative isolationist? A conservative who favors some liberalization of foreign policy while loosening the social reins? Or will the next president be a reformer eager to ease social restrictions and accelerate Iranian involvement with the rest of the world?

Registration of prospective candidates for Iran's presidential election is scheduled to begin on Tuesday and continue for five days. The Interior Ministry will then forward this information to the Guardians Council, which will screen the applications until May 24. Individuals whose candidacies are accepted can campaign from May 27 until 24 hours before election day on June 17.

An applicant's biggest initial hurdle is the Guardians Council. It accepted just four of the more than 200 applicants in 1997, and in 2001 it accepted only 10 of 814 registrants.

According to Article 115 of the Iranian constitution, a presidential candidate must be of Iranian origin and have Iranian nationality, must be a resourceful administrator, have a good record, be trustworthy and pious, and believe in the Islamic Republic's system and its fundamental principles. A more controversial aspect of the article on presidential qualifications is its assertion that the president must be a religious-political individual (rejal-i mazhabi-siasi). This vague clause leads to questions of whether or not the president should be a clergyman and also leaves it unclear as to whether or not a woman may serve as president. [...]

The Guardians Council's strategy on approving candidates remains a mystery. In some cases, it has chosen to limit public choice: In February 2004, it disqualified some 44% of prospective parliamentary candidates; in the 2001 presidential election, however, it allowed many candidates in an effort to encourage voter participation. (This also served to dilute the reformist vote and reduce the eventual victor's mandate.)


To some considerable extent, all that it will take to make Iran a regular liberal democracy is a set of reforms that do away with the Guardian Council's formal political role.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2005 8:20 AM
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