Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Candidate Screening by the Military

Vahid Sabetian, Rooz Online:
While much criticism has been aired during the last three months over forthcoming elections (of the Majles Khobregan-e Rahbari - the Experts Assembly on Leadership – and the City Councils), the Ministry of the Interior of the Islamic Republic has published is new elections bill.

Among its controversial provisions is the relegation of the supervising and even procedural tasks of screening candidates to the Baseej para-military forces
that are part of the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps.

According to the bill, The Baseej resistance force of the Passdaran Guards of the Islamic Revolution can submit, at every election precinct, evaluated public reports about the candidates within the prescribed deadlines for screening candidates to the appropriate executive and supervisory teams.” READ MORE

The bill, which has one introduction and 160 articles, was submitted to the government a few weeks ago. Its drafters say it was prepared to remove the loop holes that exist in the sections of the current law that relates to elections, and facilitating the work of supervisors and implementers of the law in order to make the process more legal.

According to the bill, members of the Islamic Majlis (Iran’s Parliament) will be elected for 4 years and those of the Experts Assembly for 8 years. Elections for the Experts Assembly will take place at the same time of the elections of the Majlis. The elections of the President and of the members of the Islamic Town and Village Councils will take place at the same time every four years. Morteza Mobalegh, the former political deputy of the Ministry of the Interior that is responsible for all elections, says that the new bill groups four elections into two events, while this is not going to reduce the effort or the cost form any perspective, while in fact narrowing the impact of the elections.

In article 25 of this bill, the Baseej para-military force is specifically mentioned as an active force in the elections. The article specifies that the ‘disciplinary force’ is responsible for creating order and preventing any disorder, as the law prescribes during the process of elections. If other forces are needed for this purpose, the Baseej and other military forces shall assist the disciplinary force, as approved by the National Security Council.

Mobalegh says that with these provisions the law will lead to ‘appointments’ rather than ‘elections’. He further adds,Not only will this law not promote and facilitate the process of elections and competition among competitors, it will further reduce any level of competition that exists in the current law. If they really want to give this bill a name, it would be appropriate to call it the law for appointments.”

The bill has led to much debate about the use of Base ej to evaluate candidates for the public positions. Mobalegh reminds that the current elections law, the law pertaining to the armed forces, the guidance of the Imam to the military forces all call for the military not to engage in elections. This is because the force would become part of the political party contests, which is dangerous for it and will irreparably damage its social position. Mobalegh further says, “While all the state apparatus are active in investigating the background of all election candidates whose findings they submit to the Guardians Council, bringing the Baseej into this task which is not mentioned anywhere in its own charter and for which it lacks qualifications to perform, raises many serious questions and ambiguities, raising serious concerns about the elections process. This is particularly true because after agencies receive the list of names from the Ministry of the Interior, they pass on their findings to the Ministry of the Interior and the Guardians Council. In the case of Baseej, this bill does not even oblige them to get or work on the list that is prepared by the Ministry of the Interior. It is not clear where is the Baseej going to get the list of candidates, which as a principal is supposed to remain confidential until its final announcement. “This raises the danger that perhaps what they have in mind is to screen the candidates before the potential candidates have even signed up for elections,” Mobalegh warns.
It's like having the fox guard the hen house.