The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope has extended its gratitude to the Iranian people for their widespread boycott of the country’s first nationwide elections since the widely disputed 2009 presidential race.
In a statement on Thursday, the Council, an important decision-making body with the opposition movement, also expressed “special gratitude” towards the country’s senior religious figures for refusing to take part in the 2 March vote and thus “not sacrificing the truth and their popular support for the sake of the hard-liners’ power-seeking [ambitions].”
“Alas, the ruling establishment preferred to hold rubber-stamp elections instead of [permitting] the active and conscious participation of its informed citizens,” the Council said. It argued that Friday’s “theatrical display,” was yet another step towards undermining the significance of elections and the parliament altogether.
“We all wished that the election organisers would allow for the entire Iranian population to partake in the elections by satisfying the conditions for free, sound and fair elections and releasing all [political] detainees from prison and the leaders of the Green Movement from house arrest, by relieving the media of coercion and censorship and by allowing political parties and groups to operate freely,” the Council stated, adding that fulfilling these preconditions would have led to an “epic” turnout greater than that of the June 2009 presidential elections and “would have avoided the ravaging of the state’s Republican as well as Islamic components.”
On Wednesday, a report by United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Iran’s human rights situation provided evidence of “widespread fraud” in the 2008 parliamentary elections as well as the 2009 presidential race. The document also called for “an extensive, impartial and independent investigation” by Iran into the crackdowns that followed the election’s aftermath.
The Coordination Council said that those who had “engineered” Friday’s vote had attempted to shrink the number of eligible voters from 55 million to 48 million in order to inflate the overall turnout. “But reports by Green Movement activists on the ground demonstrated that the support for boycotting the elections was far more widespread than the regime, and even the movement’s activists, had anticipated.”
In late February, the Council called on Iranians to stay at home on Election Day, “[for] those who invite the people to participate in the elections do not have the slightest regard for the people’s opinions, and when the first opportunity arises, they will seek to overthrow what’s left of republicanism and democracy.”
The Council’s members said that the election outcome and the clumsy manipulation of the figure showed the authorities’ lack of “prior coordination even amongst themselves.” It argued that it was inconceivable that after almost three years of brutal oppression, more than 50 percent of residents in Tehran would turn out to vote, when in previous elections the turnout in the capital never surpassed 20-30 percent. “The same pattern is also observed in other major cities like Tabriz and Mashhad.”
“[So now], we must all believe that after two years of crackdowns, a rise in poverty, unemployment, high prices, inflation as well as deep and widespread corruption—with the largest embezzlement in the country’s history—the nation now has more faith in and admiration for regime and that participation has leaped from 50 percent in the eighth [Majlis elections in 2008] to 64 percent [in 2012],” the Council went on to add mockingly.
“If the turnout was truly as high as they claim, then why is it that contrary to common practice, foreign reporters were prevented from freely [covering the race] and a substantial number of them were not granted visas?” the Council asked. It compared Friday’s voting to sham elections held under the ousted Egyptian dictator Mubarak.
CNN’s Ivan Watson, one of the few foreign journalists allowed in Tehran to cover the elections, tweeted this message: “This is the 1st election I’ve covered anywhere in the world where authorities ordered reporters on buses to cover vote.” Watson added in another tweet, “All foreign journalists being BUSSED by authorities to polling stations. No alternative.”
The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope praised the people’s boycott of the parliamentary elections as a “victory” for the Green Movement. Numerous videos footages and reports obtained from across the country showed empty polling stations, in contrast to the long queues of people waiting to vote in the rigged presidential election of 2009.
The Council admitted that a zero-turnout was not the goal of the boycott campaign and that some Iranians “influenced by [state] propaganda” cast their votes on 2 March with the sole intention of countering the threat of a military strike on their country. “It is clear that non-political, local and regional factors, as well as the [regime’s] massive propaganda machine … a continuation of an atmosphere of fear, terror and threats … does ensure a minimum degree of participation.”
“A state’s power on the international stage is directly proportional to its humility before its people,” it added.
The body went on to conclude that street protests were not the only form of civil disobedience and argued that the Green Movement’s supporters would utilise various means of resistance in order to get their message across. “The supporters of the Green Movement showed once more that they shan’t forget the Movement’s imprisoned leaders, activists and its martyrs. They made it clear that unlike the hardliners, they stand by moral principles and see the rulers’ submission to the people’s will as the only way towards national reconciliation.”
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi led the opposition Green Movement until mid-February when they were placed under house arrest after they called for rallies in support of the revolutions in the Arab World. The pair took part in Iran’s 2009 presidential elections, widely believed to have been subject to a monumental fraud that was designed to ensure the victory of the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The announcement of the election results sparked the largest protest rallies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution with the opposition candidates refusing to accept the legitimacy of the election, dismissing it as “engineered” and “rigged.”
Human rights groups say their ongoing house arrest is against international conventions as well as Iran’s own constitution.