The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Economist blogs Iran's elections

A lot of goof stuff here, but I found this particularly funny:

I must still be groggy from the all-night travel. At my first attempt to use the phone, a Tokyo Rose voice intones in American English, “In the name of God, the number you have dialled does not exist. Please hang up and check the number.�

On the more serious side, on the many candidates blocked from eligibility:

D is among the 2,000-odd parliamentary candidates whose electoral bid was nipped in the bud by the Guardians’ Council, the 12-man, unelected body of senior clerics which takes upon itself the duty of vetting candidates for public office. D is particularly upset because he had taken special care to avoid being branded a reformist, and therefore automatically suspect in the eyes of the conservative Guardians.

Although relatively liberal in his views, he had been encouraged to run by several hard-line MPs. D had also quit a well-paying job, and invested much time and money in his campaign. “I would have thought I was exactly the kind of young face, committed to working inside the system, and not associated with any controversy, that they would have wanted to encourage,� he says.

Yet almost worse than the fact of the rejection is that he has no idea what grounds it was based on. He knows from neighbours that anonymous agents made inquiries about his general behaviour, such as whether he attended prayers regularly at the local mosque. Someone from the Guardians’ Council even called D to ask a few polite questions, such as where he got his MA degree (that qualification, newly introduced for this election, has been attacked as yet another obstacle intended to block competition, since sitting MPs, overwhelmingly conservative, are exempted from it). There was, he admits, a brief pause when he said it was from an American university.

After notice came of his disqualification, D was slightly mollified to receive a letter, informing him that it was his right to demand an official explanation. So far, the Guardians have not replied to any of his repeated requests. D even asked lawyer friends whether he could sue the council, not for disqualifying him but simply for failing to provide a reason. The advice was that this would be a bad idea. It would be taken as a hostile act, damaging to the reputation of the Islamic Republic.

That being said, still a more polite form of election rigging than what's going on right now in Egypt's municipal elections.