Iran’s forthcoming parliamentary race will be nothing more than “sham elections,” according to Mahdi Karroubi, a leader in Iran’s opposition Green Movement currently under house arrest.
In mid-February, Karroubi and fellow 2009 presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi were placed under an illegal and arbitrary house arrest following their calls for protests in solidarity with the Arab Spring. Thus far, no formal charges have been put forth against the two men who have spearheaded the opposition Green Movement since the widely contested results of the presidential election were announced in June 2009.
Human rights groups say their continued captivity and maltreatment is inconsistent not only with human rights provisions, but also with Iran’s own constitution.
Following her last weekly visitation with the reformist figure, Karroubi’s wife told Saham news, the website of Karroubi’s National Trust Party, that in her husband’s eyes, the upcoming parliamentary elections in March wouldn’t amount to any other than “rubber-stamp elections.”
Candidates began registering for the 2 March vote on Saturday and will go on to do so until 30 December, after which they will be screened by the powerful Guardian Council. On Monday, the semi-official Fars news agency (affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps) quoted Ahmadinejad’s Interior Minister, Mostafa Najjar, as saying that around 1020 candidates had already signed up for the parliamentary race.
Fatemeh Karroubi quoted her husband as saying that the authorities were “fully aware of the people’s wrath and dissatisfaction and want to hold rubber-stamp elections by disqualifying [candidates] and certain polling stations, while stuffing ballot boxes with counterfeit votes and then supressing and arresting [protesters] as well as stirring up terror and fear and enforcing a security [atmosphere] in the country.” The veteran reformer warned of a repeat of the 2009 elections and its aftermath, but said he believed that the Iranian people were informed about the “the nature of the theatrical display.”
“Even before anything has happened, [the officials] have formed a task force for dealing with election irregularities … this all indicates that they have no faith in the people’s vote and are already bracing themselves for a bogus election,” Karroubi added.
The 73-year-old predicted that the Guardian Council might require candidates to distance themselves from Green Movement leaders as a precondition for taking part in elections.
Just hours after his comments began to circulate on the web, Fars denied Karroubi’s statements and his house arrest, alleging the former parliament speaker had in fact been “at liberty” to go anywhere he wished, including “Beheshte Zahra cemetery” and a “public swimming pool.”
Already, Iran’s major pro-reform parties, including the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) and the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organisation (MIRO), have boycotted the upcoming elections.
In a recent statement, 39 political detainees at Evin Prison said that the elections would “bear no resemblance to the elections mentioned in the country’s constitution.”
“In no place in the world is this considered to be a free and fair election [or] an indicator of national rule,” the statement added. “Today, our people are witnessing an undeclared martial law. The experience of all countries, including ours, demonstrates that elections held under the dominance of military men and security forces will be a mere rubber-stamp election by which the fate of the [parliamentary] seats have already been pre-determined.”
In mid-December, Ali Mohammad Gharibani, president of Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, announced that the country’s pro-reform factions would not participate in the parliamentary race in March. He said the council had “decided not to present a unified list [of candidates] and not to support anyone [in the race].”
Months earlier, former reformist President Mohammad Khatami had set conditions for the reformists to participate in the Majlis elections, including: the release of all political prisoners; free and competitive elections; and freedom for political parties and the press.
Last week, Khatami backed the Coordination Council of the Reformist Front, saying, “My opinion is the same as the council’s, which is that the reformists cannot and must not have candidates and a unified list in the elections.”
“I don’t speak on behalf of anyone. I think that all indicators suggest that we must not take part in the elections.”