On the day of the eight Majlis elections, the contrast between the larger presence of voters in the reform movement’s strongholds, located mostly in the west, northwest, and north of Tehran, and even some districts in south of Tehran, and the relatively lesser presence in areas traditionally affiliated with the conservative movement, located in east and south of Tehran, was so stark that, starting on Friday night, rumors were flying around in political circles that conservatives are looking for ways to rig the election results.
The initial reports of reformist victories in various districts apparently convinced election administrators to find a solution to the problem of the reformists’ election observers (who, by law, have the right to monitor proceedings). The solution was to kick out election observers and journalists from independent and reformist parties from precincts. The move immediately aroused the protest of reformists, but to no avail. The right to monitor election proceedings was taken away from reformists in a flash.
A deputy secretary of the E’temad Melli party Rasoul Montajabnia, conducted an interview with the news website “Roozena” the night before the elections, in which he protested the behavior of the Guardian Council and the Ministry of Interior [both of which are responsible for administering the elections] in handling Tehran’s elections. He said, “In the final hours of voting, they kicked out many of E’temad Melli’s observers from voting centers, and told many others that they could remain in the center, but not get close to the counting tables and monitor the results.”
Meanwhile, the reformist website “Baharestan Hashtom,” published more detailed reports on how the elections were engineered and exposed plans that were underway to replace the names of reformists elected to the Majlis with the names of candidates from the opposite camp. This demonstrated the serious concerns pf reformists regarding the integrity of the elections. According to unofficial reports the Ministry of Interior which was using a computer system to count the ballots, must have had a clear idea of the general election results a day after voting had concluded. However, the ministry prevented the election committee from publishing this information and allowed only a handful of select people access to the information.
Finally, in continuation of the tradition of lack of transparency, election administrators announced that 14 conservative candidates have won seats in the Majlis in the first round with the remaining 16 seats to be determined in the second round. In reaction to this announcement, representatives from reformist parties gathered at the ministry to provide evidence of rigging and irregularities.
A similar scenario was implemented during last year’s Tehran city council elections, when election officials did not allow more than 4 reformists to win seats in the city council, and replaced the names of 5 other reformist victors with those of conservatives so that the majority of Tehran’s 15-member city council could belong to the conservative camp.
This much is perhaps predictable and ordinary, given the non-democratic character of the Iranian government. However, when the issue of appropriate solutions to confront such “engineered elections” comes up, there is room for much discussion.
In reality, election violations of this sort take place from time to time in other non-democratic and semi-democratic countries. However, reactions in capital of those countries to such violations, compared to reactions in Tehran, differ widely. In those countries, reacting to election violations does not mean what just happened in Tehran: that representatives or candidates from parties go to election administrators and protest! Rather, they ask for help from the people and address the public directly, and the results of those pleas are usually public gatherings and civil protests, which puts election administrators under pressure.
Reformists must know that as long as their reaction to election violations is limited to passive measures such as simply protesting the administration of the election, such irregularities will not end. The unsuccessful results of previous passive reactions must at least be used to confront future violations. As the famous Farsi saying goes, “Whenever you catch the fish from the water, it’s fresh!”