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Is Iran a democratic country?

The movement toward republicanism which begun by Iranian nation after Islamic Revolution continues within the framework of Islamic values and so far Iranian leaders have had full and all-out support of their people in this regard.

The term “Islamic Republic” is a combination of two words: “Republic” which is a suggested governance form of Iran and “Islamic” which determines the contents of this governance form. “Islamic” means that this political regime should be ruled based on Islamic principles and norms. Islam, as a religion as well as an ideology, defines a guideline for different aspects of human life. One of them is public governance, namely, a governance framework which allows the people to elect their governor. Further, this governance is in the form of a temporary governance. It means that the governance should be renewed every several years, i.e. the people have been allowed to renew the governance form and thus, they could choose another form of governance.

The history of holding elections and democracy process in Iran has originated from Constitutional Revolution in 1285 (1868). However, the elections gradually lost its main content and became appointments due to increased interventions of king’s court. After the victory of Islamic revolution and establishment of the Islamic republic, the ratification of the Constitution and formation of political institutions has been accomplished by direct vote of the people. Holding elections and referendum within the framework of Iran’s constitution enjoys an important position. Article 6 of Iran’s constitution states: “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the affairs of the country must be administered on the basis of public opinion expressed by the means of elections, including the election of the President, the representatives of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the members of councils, or by means of referenda in matters specified in other articles of this Constitution.” Thus, the formation process of Islamic Consultative Assembly and Assembly of experts as well as the election of Presidents and ten thousands of the members of city and village councils confirms the democratic identity of Iran.

Iran’s Islamic revolution not only saved the Iranian nation, but also provided an appropriate ground for the establishment of a democratic system in Iran. Participation of Iranians in the democratic system takes place through elections. This is an essential that will never be suspended, as despite Iran-Iraq war as well as economic and defensive sanctions against Iran, the elections were conducted without any interruption. Iranian people attained the present position after making a long and continuous effort in order to change Monarchical regime into a beatific society. Iranian people neither believe in radicalism nor support freedom in the form of turmoil. They desire moderation.

After the fall of the Mossadegh government, the Second Pahlavi took the absolute power. Suppression of political parties, widespread arrest of intellectuals, limitations on freedom of expression and universities at this juncture of history, created a dire era in terms of political activities. There were no much efforts to change the situation and then regime could not able to bolster its social and political position. So, the gap between government and citizens and the efforts for the survival of the political system without respect to people votes and beliefs caused a crisis and finally led to revolution.

The 1979 revolution was Iranian people’s reaction to an authoritarian regime. Based on this argument, the 1979 revolution coincided with the third wave of democracy in the world. Namely, a time period during which widespread changes occurred all over the world such as Europe (Portugal, Greece, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania), Latin America (Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) and Asia (India, Philippines and Pakistan). These changes led to the downfall of monarchical and military regimes and the establishment of parliamentary system. As a result, monarchical system changed to Republic system. These new systems have some characteristics: The direct votes of people will elect the officials and there are different mechanisms such as referendum, forming councils and so on in order to impose people’s wills and desires.

32 years has been elapsed since the victory of Iran’s Islamic revolution. During this period, 32 elections have been held in Iran (almost one election per year). Average turnout rate during the period have been almost %70 of all eligible to voting. Comparing this with European countries demonstrates that Iran has a democratic and popular system. From the viewpoint of sociologist Intellectuals, the presidential elections of the 2nd Khordad 1376 (23 May 2021), which its results was not so in favor with ruling system, is another sign of democratic framework of Iran’s political system.

It is noteworthy to note that elections is a process to elect individuals for occupying the posts or positions in a society through referendum and it is considered as the most important tool of political participation in the democratic regimes.

Holding a fair election in any country is considered as a mechanism to strengthen the legitimacy of political regime and government-nation bonds.


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