Friday, April 04, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections v Islamic Republic Elections

I don't want to sound pro-Mugabe at all, I am definitely not pro anyone who has remained in power for 28 years. I view any leader who has stayed in power for more than 10 years with great suspicion. However, if like me, your only source of information about Zimbabwe has been the BBC News and the British media, then its very likely that your impression of Mugabe is that of an evil dictatorship which suppresses all forms of dissent with no support amongst the population.

Yet the same media along by some opportunistic or simply naive statesmen and politicians will tell you that there is a democracy in Iran, perhaps not a fully fledged one, but one which is "the best in the region!" I wonder if "the region" includes Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel, Lebanon and so on.

Few examples to demonstrate my point:
"Iran is far from being a full democracy, but it is a great deal more democratic than almost any country in the Arab world or Central Asia." BBC's John Simpson.

and even worse:
"Islamic Republic is as an advanced form of shining democracy in the region". Lib-Dem MEP, Emma Nicholson, in the European Parliament.

While the BBC always grumbles about being banned from Zimbabwe, the BBC's knight in shining armour, John Simpson, always manages to get a report out about the country in some heroic way:
"The elections were conducted against a backdrop of violence and criticism"
"the whole process has been far from free and fair" John Simpson reporting from Zimbabwe elections.

Now lets put the BBC reporting aside for a minute and remind ourselves with some facts. In the Islamic Republic an unelected body vets the candidates. This vetting process has seen the disqualification of Islamic Republic founders, war veterans, clerics, and even people who have been in the government or the parliament before. In other words the slightest dissent means being banned from standing up as a candidate, no matter how loyal one's past record is.

Even the vetted candidates who win this very restricted process can still get disqualified afterwards!

Despite all this control, the regime still cheats in counting the votes, the Baseej are mobilised to vote several times and even use false ID cards.

On top of all this, even if through all this restricted process and tight control, God forbid the Majles votes for something as apolitical as raising the age of marriage for girls from 9 years old to 12 years old, the Guardian Council vetoes the Majlis approved bill.

Yet it seems that in Zimbabwe, there is no vetting of candidates. Opposition parties can run in the elections, there is a free press, there is freedom of speech and there is a much more independent judiciary than there is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

So please, bright and intelligent politicians, and unbiased journalists, someone tell this lay man how is it that Mugabe is such an unforgivable dictator and the Islamic Republic is such a shining example of Democracy? Where is the consistency in your reporting?


Harry Barnes said...

It is beginning to look as if the main reason a run-off may be needed in Zimbabwe's Presidential election is due to the split in the MDC opposition, with Mutambara who leads the minority faction asking his supporters to vote for the likely third placed candidate. The combined vote of the two faction was 51.3% enough to defeat Mugabe if they had been united. There is a lot wrong with Mugabe who has controlled much of their system in a destructive way. But with a bit more unity he would probably have bitten the dust by now. Iran is a long way from a similar possibility.

Azarmehr said...

Do you see my frustration Harry in the favourable way the Islamic Republic election is reported and the way Zimbabwe is reported?

I think despite all thats wrong with Mugabe, he is far more democratic than the clerics who rule Iran.

Winston said...

no so different, imo.

Anonymous said...

The election in IRan is only for the political elite/strata who have proven track record of being loyal to Khamenie and the Islamic Reupblic.

How could you have a democratic election in a non-democratic theocracy??? They are basically state-appointed or state-approved candidates who participate in make believe election.

Hypothetically, If the Unites States government was hijacked by Christian Evanglists and the constitution of United states was thrown out and the biblical laws and stricutres replaced it, then, would "election" of vetted pastors, and Christian clergies be considered "democratic"???? Would they call America a "democracy"???


Harry Barnes said...

Arazmehr : first, I need to clarify the MDC figures I referred to. They originate from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission in relation to the vote for their House of Assembly. They cover 207 contests in 210 seats, as 3 other contests were postponed due to the death of candidates during the campaign.
The overall percentage figures are MDC (Tsvangarai's faction) 42.9%, MDC (Mutambara'd faction) 8.4%, ZANU-PF (Mugabe) 45.9%,Others 2.8%.
See towards end of this post -,_2008
I know hear that ZANU-PF are challenging the result in 16 of the seats won by the MDC.

Secondly, I appreciate fully your argument that those who criticise what Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been up to for some time in Zimbabwe should also turn their attention to the serious and long term democratic deficit in Iran - with just as much vigour. For in Iran dictatorial controls appear even in their Constitution, which you wisely ask people to read. The abuses to democracy in Zimbabwe tend to be unconstitutional ones, in Iran they are both constitutional and unconstitutional. This is why in the current tussle in Zimbabwe everything is to play for and MDC still have a chance of winning and (hopefully) pursuing democratic practices and principles. Iran is not in that position and what is needed is to give support to civic activities (such as pressure for Trade Unionism and Women's Rights) which can begin to place change on the agenda. It is relevant that Tsvangarai himself emerged as the leader of their Trade Union Movement.

Anonymous said...

Top 10 reasons why IRI is "an advanced form of shining democracy in the region" compared to Zimbabwe:

10. Wipe Israel off the map! So said Ahmadinejad (yes, is correct translation and meaning)
9. Mugabe never had chelo-kabab with Jack Straw!
8. BBC did/does not give Mugabe a continuous platform to spread his propaganda (Khomeini once said BBC is my voice)
7. Mugabe never called Britain "the mother of all evils" (not as far as I know)
6. Zimbabwe did not successfully capture and hold 15 British Sailors hostage; later ensuring the "kodak moment"
5. Zimbabwe does not have a Mullah Khatami and his "dialogue amongst civilizations" thingy
4. IRI's human rights violations are second only to China, forget Zimbabwe!
3. Nuclear power is not an inalienable right in Zimbabwe (well not yet!)
2. GWB never said Zimbabwe was part of the "Axis of Evil"
1. Oil, political and economic interests.... not in Zimbabwe!

Btw, a belated happy Nowrooz!

Azarmehr said...

:)) Happy Nowrus to you too Plateau. I liked the chelokabab with Jack Straw best :)))

Sohrab said...

did ahmadinejad have chelowkabab with straw?!!!

Azarmehr said...

No his predecessor did

Barmakid said...

I understand your discontent, but the presence of democracy in Africa is much more potent than in the Middle East. So when an African nation's democracy devolves, it is met with harsh criticism because of the context in which democracy exists in Africa. Plus, the potential of war with Zimbabwe is nonexistent.

On the other hand, Iran is referred to as a "shining" example of democracy in the region precisely because of the lack of democracy in the region. That is not to say Iran is entirely democratic - it is not. But nonetheless, it is more democratic than most countries in the region.

Furthermore, when the western media writes about Iran, if they write negatively they might be seen as part of the war-advocating faction. Most of the media denounces war with Iran and they don't want to provide US leaders with a reason to attack, or facilitate an attack by lubricating the public's willingness to accept another war.


William said...

Interesting Potkin. Disturbing too. The question becomes whether a flawed democracy is better than no attempt at democracy. Is it useful that the trappings of democracy exist or not?