Is the Iranian presidential election a free election? How much does the will of people count in the election process? Are Iranian people willing to take part in the elections? Does the Supreme Leader decide who the next President will be? Why is there a vetting process?
By Shabbir R Hassanally1
I am leaving among you the Two Weighty Things: the Book of Allah and my `Itrat (Progeny), my Ahlul Bayt. So long as you (simultaneously) uphold both of them, you will never be misled after me; so, do not go ahead of them else you should perish, and do not lag behind them else you should perish; do not teach them, for they are more knowledgeable than you.
– Tirmidhi, Sahih Muslim, al-Mustadrak, etc
What is the Governance of the Jurist if not the political embodiment of the Sunna [tradition] of the Prophet Muhammad, since it speaks of Islam as together a covenant, an institution, a socio-economic system and a legal system?
One may argue – many have done so over the centuries that Islam is in itself all that is and is needed, beyond all manners of separations while allowing for pluralism and individualism. Islam is balance perfected.
To guard that system that God ordained, signs were given to mankind, custodians were offered so that Guidance would be ours. Today, and in the absence of Imam al-Hujjah, may our souls be his ransom, and may God hasten his return, the Jurists have stood as custodian of God’s Traditions.
On March 21, 2017, the Iranian New Year, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei gave a speech that tied into the twelfth (12th) Iranian Presidential Elections.
His exemplary speech was delivered in the shrine of Imam Reza2, in Mashhad – the very place that sustained, and in many ways carried the Islamic Revolution in its formative years and the 8-years sacred defence.
Imam Khamenei’s core message can be summarised here when he stressed:
“Anyone who decides to attack the result of the people’s votes will be confronted by me!”3
Now, these words are interesting. Anyone who knows anything about the Islamic Republic of Iran knows – and indeed it’s in the name – that it is a republic. Contrary to western popular belief Iran has a thriving democratic tradition, one that is rooted in pluralism. The only difference is that in the Islamic Republic there is no Circus Maximus and no Roman games. Iran’s democracy is not that of the West and it cannot, therefore, be looked at through the lenses of neoliberalism – that would be missing the mark by a few million light years …
Politically engaged, Iranians have, and that since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the first presidential elections, turned out in droves to cast their ballot. In 1980 the voter turnout percentage4 has been between 67% to 72% (in 2013). At its lowest in terms of voter turnout was 1993 (6th Presidential Elections) with a turnout of 50.66%, with the highest turnout was for the 10th Presidential Elections in 20095, with turnout figures ranging from 85.22% to 84.83%
A cursory glance at these figures shows that the people of Iran are politically active; they take a great interest in how their country is governed. So the question that comes to mind is: why would the Leader, Imam Khamenei, feel the need to insist that should anyone decide to deny Iranians’ right to political self-determination, he, as the custodian of the Islamic Republic, would rise a fortress.
The perception of the outside world with regard to the Islamic Republic of Iran is somewhat confused and tempered with an irrational fear and dread, notwithstanding prejudices.
Interestingly enough it is since Iran asserted its independence from foreign diktat, foreign dependence and foreign patronage that it became the source of all evil in the world. As it were, western capitals much preferred the tyranny of the Shah … but then again the West has made a habit out of propping abject regimes to exert control and still call it fair and just.
Make no mistake, it is because Iran dared rose the Governance of the Jurist amid a time of great ignorance that our modern days Yazid – and they are many, have weaved lies as a spider would do it’s web, and in its net entangled Truth.
Iran’s Islamic Republic is not the Shia equivalent of Wahhabist Saudi Arabia. The two could not sit on more polar opposites. Where Iran speaks empowerment, liberation through just allegiance the other screams the abominable – ignominy among all ignominies the kingdom is a taint onto our humanity.
Iran one may say is the base upon which, the return has been made possible – return to the days when Islam spoke God’s Covenant.
If one is to dispel this farcical myth regarding the Islamic Republic, to explain why this is actually the most perfect of systems; a system that has its roots in that which was implemented by Prophet Muhammad in Madinah and Imam Ali in Kufa, one needs to dive into the nature of what constitutes Wilayat al-Faqih.
So how does all of this work?
In the same manner, God offers His Creation freedom within the limits of His Covenant, Wilayah guarantees the people the right to choose the manner in which the affairs of the state will be governed. Sitting a guardian, and a keeper of the Word remains the Faqih – in keeping with the injunctions of AhlulBayt. As immovable as the Word itself the Jurist role is to enact, safeguard and testify to Ghadeer since should he [the prophet] not have told us, it is as if he would not have said anything.
The power of Wilayah lies in balance. Wilayah needs no other legitimacy than that which was conferred by God’s religion.
Within this system, there can be no clash in between the various branches of government – no competition either.
And while politicians and officials may differ in their tone, the bedrock of Iran system of governance sits undisputed.
The line, the position of the country; the path of the Islamic Revolution is not up for debate. Iran is not governed by a regime in the way that the West understands it. The Governance of the Jurist speaks the restoration of Islamic tradition, it is not a hiccup on the world’s political map.
Indeed those who have intermittently worked to disappear its institutions have found themselves confronted with the stealth of a people whose allegiance lies beyond the temporal. Maybe one day soon western capitals will recognize in the Islamic Republic the cry that was let out in the plain of Karbala … maybe then they will learn that while our Imam may have fallen a martyr, his banner we will hold until time itself gives out.
Iran’s Revolution was, is still Imam Hussain’s legacy, his call to allegiance – our loyalty to pledge.
This notion that the Zionists, the Takfiris and their masters in Washington and London have is ludicrous. The actual system of government is not up for debate or negotiation. It is a divine system, what is up for change in the elections is the administration of the system, not the core.
This is not a strange or foreign notion specific only to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Take for example France as a secular republic, or the United States as a Capitalist Democracy. The core fundamentals are not up for debate with each election. Rather the administration of said system is what changes. The core remains constant.
With the system of Wilayat al-Faqih – as laid out by the Constitution of Medina and reaffirmed at Ghadeer, governance lies with God and not those false idols, whether those made of stones or born in capitalism.
God’s religion, that spoken by Abraham and made whole by the Prophet Muhammad is that system that is connected via the rope of God to the Divine presence, the Divine system; such that the terrestrial is in perpetual and perfect orbit around the Divine, and obedient only to the will of the Divine.
When a new president is elected by the people of Iran; that president – by virtue of the entire electoral process – the nomination and vetting of candidates, the presidential race and debates, the policy papers and manifestos published and distributed by each candidate, the interviews granted by each candidate – only go to provide the populous – both domestic and international – an understanding of the policies of said candidate – but WITHIN the confines of the Divine system of Wilayat al-Faqih.
Also, as a rule, the vote of the people is what defines the winner. Nothing else. This is emphasised by Imam Khamenei in his speech on March 21, 2017:
“What I want to say about elections is that the letter of the law should be observed in elections.
The letter of the law should be observed!
Whatever the result of national elections is, it will be valid and legal.
I will not interfere in elections.
I have never said and will never say to the people that they should vote for and not vote for such and such a person.
I only interfere in one condition and that is when some people want to stand against the people’s votes and choice and to cancel their votes by causing interference.
Anyone who decides to attack the result of the people’s votes will be confronted by me!”
Amongst the key lessons that need to be understood here, about how the system of Wilayat al-Faqih works is that the position of the Faqih (the Jurist) within the government is – for want of a better word – as a custodian. Someone who looks after and protects the system in the absence of the Awaited Master, may our souls be his ransom, and may God hasten his return.
This has a requirement that while the Faqih be involved within the system, he must be at the same time aloof from the system, such that he can see it in its entirety. Something that a direct administrator – such as the President who works on the system day in day out – can’t see.
Explaining this is somewhat complicated, so the reader needs to pay some attention and reflect while reading to understand. The position of the Leader, is above the system, while still bound by the system; but at the same time, the Leader – on account of being above the system can see any potential issues, traps and games being played by even the most astute of enemies; and as a result take immediate and decisive remedial action.
An example that the reader may understand is that of the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of a corporation. The underlying principles and direction of the corporation are governed by and protected by the CEO; and by virtue of this position, the CEO is ideally placed to protect the system. Those who work for the CEO, such as the COO (Chief Operating Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and others right down to the janitor – all have an important task; but they cannot see the entirety of the operation; they are focused at a more specific level.
The CEO, sees all; and is the person best placed to protect, and direct the entire corporation.
One might argue that the position of the Wali al-Faqih is analogous (to an extent) with that of the CEO of the Islamic Revolution.
The Assembly of Experts that oversee the Leader are analogous to the Board of Directors of a corporation; and as a result, the CEO is governed by them and they are elected by the many shareholders.
This is very important. There is a lot of garbage spewed by mainstream media – both Arabic and English – that suggests Imam Khamenei – the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, the Wali al-Faqih – interferes in the elections – such as the article dated April 5, 2017 by Muhammad Sahimi on the Huffington Post; which posits that somehow the “Iranian Deep State” is working to depose the incumbent President Rouhani, and replace him with a “Khamenei-backed hardliner”.
To understand this statement, one needs to reflect on a maxim whereby psychologically a criminal sees everyone else as a criminal. This is a condition known as “psychological projection”. The textbook definition makes it all very clear:
“Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.”6
For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates the idea of blame shifting
The fact that there is a US “deep state” – a concept fundamentally opposed to democracy, yet allowed to flourish and control what appears to be a democratic process in the US – to someone subscribing to that mentality, means that ipso facto there is an “Iranian Deep-State”. A system that works against the will of the people, that manipulates and promotes people based on an unknown agenda and other such notions that can only be described as acute paranoia and the result of psychosis.
There is no “Iranian Deep-State”. If there was, then that would require Iran to – like America and Britain are – be controlled by external actors, to be a dictatorship with democratic principles as nothing but decor. The Islamic Republic of Iran answers to its people; and governs by laws derived from the teachings and commandments of a higher power. But the will of the people is paramount, just as the name of God is always the Most High.
The electoral process in Iran has many steps, the candidates that can stand for the Presidency need to be those who are committed to the principles of the Islamic Revolution, and must be religiously devout and politically astute. The presidential candidate must have good experience in management and administration; after all the president has a duty to manage and administer the affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and as a result must be capable. The candidate selection process is rigorous.
As a general rule, hundreds submit their names and nominations to run for the position of the President, but only a handful make the cut. This is not because – as the mainstream media and politicians would have you believe – the Supreme Leader somehow removes any candidate that he disagrees with. This is because there is a criteria, a selection criteria, a criteria of eligibility.
Thank God that there is; otherwise Iran would fall victim to the insanity that plagues the United States of America and other democracies, and that results in a person being elected who reneges on every campaign promise he makes, wins a Nobel Peace Prize for making wars, who goes to war for corporate gain, or who is a lewd and uncouth imbecile.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a place where the anarchy of having a reality TV star, and property magnate of dishonourable conduct such as Mr Trump can ever take place, such a candidate would fail the vetting process for many reasons, too numerous to expand on here!
Another important aspect of the elections is that the Presidential candidates must only use honourable means to debate; there can be no slander or disrespecting other candidates – for any reason. Such behaviour is unacceptable and impermissible. These are amongst the many rules and regulations that manage the Iranian elections.
The reason for all of these safeguards is not to safeguard the position of any individual; rather it is to safeguard the system, the system of Wilayat al-Faqih, the system of the Islamic Republic and indeed the Islamic Revolution itself.
Any attempt to circumvent this system; is an attack on the Islamic Republican System; any attempt to harm the Islamic Republican system is an attack on Iran itself and indeed on democracy and justice. As a result, you have the primary safeguarder of the Islamic System, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khamenei saying in no uncertain terms:
“Anyone who decides to attack the result of the people’s votes will be confronted by me!”
He said this, to ensure that those unscrupulous parties who think that they can undermine the Islamic Revolution, and not honour the blood of the thousands of honourable souls that gave everything to realise this revolution.
He said this, to enact the immortal words of Imam Khomeini who not only considered the protection of the Islamic Revolution as a wajib (mandatory/obligatory) duty on all, more so than any other obligatory duty.
In closing, the vote of the people – for whichever candidate wins the popular vote in the upcoming 12th Iranian Presidential Elections – is sacrosanct. No other power has any right to influence or manipulate the will of the people. The will of the people in choosing their next President is the choice of the people and only the people.
One more important point that needs to be made, is regarding the “term” of the Supreme Leader. The term of the Supreme Leader is infinitesimal; it is in a constant state of renewal. The Leader’s position is monitored and looked over by the Assembly of Experts, and at any time, should the Leader breach the principles of the Islamic Revolution and indeed of Islam or work against Islam, he can instantly be deposed. While this has never happened, that doesn’t mean that the mechanism for it doesn’t exist.
The role of the Wali al-Faqih, the Supreme Leader, with regard to the elections, and indeed to both the Islamic Republic and Revolution as a whole, is to ensure that the will of the people is enacted and that the Islamic Revolution continues to move from strength to strength. Which undoubtedly it will.
And from Allah alone is all Tawfeeq.7
Due to the length of this article, I have now decided to make a text-to-speech version available, so that it can be listened to as well as read, for the convenience of the viewer.
A discussion on the Iranian Presidential Elections, as well as the system of Wilayat al-Faqih (Governance of the Jurist)
- Shabbir Hassanally is a software engineer, and an Islamic Scholar, having studied in the Islamic Seminary of Qum. He contributes to various outlets as a political analyst. Mr Hassanally lectures at various Islamic Centres from time to time and is currently working on a book on the commonalities between Zionism and Wahhabism – from a political and hegemonic perspective, as well as examining historical parallels between these two cancers infecting humanity. He also consults on subjects related to human rights, activism, Islam, anti-sectarianism, and Islamic politics, economics, the Palestine issue and issues affecting Muslims across the world. He was also one of the early members of the Global March to Jerusalem (GM2J) and looked after the website for the group. He has edited a number of books on both political and Islamic subjects.
- Imam Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha, commonly referred to as Imam Reza is the eighth Imam of the Muslims. He is buried in Mashhad, following his assassination by the Abbasid Caliph Ma’mun al-Abbasi in around 818. For more on the life on Imam Reza please see: https://www.al-islam.org/story-of-the-holy-kaaba-and-its-people-shabbar/eighth-imam-ali-ibn-musa-al-ridha
- The full text of the speech delivered by Imam Khamenei on March 21, 2017, in Mashhad can be found at http://english.khamenei.ir/news/4733/I-Will-Confront-Anyone-Who-Attacks-the-Vote-of-the-People-in
- The figures used here are provided by the Iranian Data Portal of Syracuse University. See: http://irandataportal.syr.edu/elections as well as by the Islamic Republic of Iran Ministry of the Interior see (Farsi only): http://irandataportal.syr.edu/…/.pdf
- Because of the historic significance of the 10th Presidential Elections in 2009, and the events surrounding them, more information on the actual electoral outcome can be found here http://irandataportal.syr.edu/2009-presidential-election – information has been taken from the Islamic Republic of Iran Ministry of the Interior.
- Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9), Page 132
- This article was originally published on April 22, 2017, on khamenei.ir