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March 2004 • Vol 4, No. 3 •

From the Arsenal of Marxism

Rigged Elections in Iran and American Democracy

By Art LeClair

A January 13 Op-ed piece in the New York Times raised concerns about bureaucratic and undemocratic machinations leading up to the Parliamentary elections in Iran. While the concerns expressed by the Times appear well founded, the so-called bastion of liberal thought in the U.S., at the same time, has always supported the sham that is the electoral process captained by the Democratic and Republican twin-parties of U.S. capitalism.

On February 20, Iranian voters had an opportunity to go to the polls and have a voice in determining who their elected representatives would be. Clearly, the outcome of the elections was never really in doubt.

The fact that the religious right would triumph and recapture control of the country’s parliament was a foregone conclusion. In order to guarantee that outcome, Iran’s religious establishment had weeks earlier limited participation in the election to those friendly to their point of view.

While excluding candidates is nothing new to Iranian politics, this latest episode, according to the Times and several European media outlets, “vastly exceeds past interference.” Literally thousands of candidates, many of them members of Iran’s reform movement, including 87 deputies in the 290 seat national assembly seeking reelection, were disqualified.

The exclusions were issued by the Guardian Council, a so-called “watchdog” panel appointed by clerics loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist movement. Despite protests by Washington and the European Union and sit-ins by members of Parliament, as well as threats of resignation by provincial governors, Khamenei refused to rescind the exclusions.

Times editorialists suggested, “Pressure should be sustained until Ayatollah Khamenei changes his mind.” We can only imagine what form that pressure should take; perhaps the same kind of pressure being used to ensure “fair” and “democratic” elections in neighboring Iraq? The Times failed to elaborate.

Let’s take a look now at how the process of electing a nation’s political and governmental leadership is conducted in the flagship of “Western Democracy,” the United States of America.

In the U.S., voters are in the process of determining which candidate from the ranks of the Democratic Party will face incumbent President George W. Bush in the November elections. Although the original list of Democratic hopefuls gave the appearance of a broad and diverse selection from which to choose, clearly this process is no less rigged than the Iranian version.

It doesn’t require an in depth investigation of the facts to conclude that in order to be considered a “legitimate” candidate for the office of the President of the United States the primary qualification is access to an unlimited amount of cash. Indeed the same is true for congressional and Senatorial elections as well.

So, in the final analysis, come November 2, American voters will be given the option of selecting which multimillionaire representative of the most ruthless ruling class the world has ever known, will be its “democratically-elected” leader. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

Even though the Republican and Democratic parties have a stranglehold on this electoral charade, several recent developments illustrate the lengths to which both sides will go to further enhance their own position.

In Georgia and Pennsylvania the practice of “gerrymandering” is the subject of lawsuits, which will most likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. (The term “gerrymander” was coined in 1811 mocking Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who drew an election district favorable to himself that was shaped like a salamander.)

Although numerous controversial redistricting plans have arisen since, the Supreme Court maintained a “hands off” attitude until 1960. As a result of the momentum of the civil rights movement, it declared racial gerrymandering unconstitutional at that time.

However, in a 1986 decision, the court held that the Constitution did not prevent legislative majorities from taking some political advantage by redrawing electoral districts, but that it did not allow such advantage as to “degrade a voter’s or a group of voters’ influence in the political process.”

In the Pennsylvania case, the Republican State legislature was accused of rewriting the map for congressional districts in a way that guaranteed the loss of several seats in the House held by Democrats. The Georgia case has the Republicans screaming foul because of how the Democrats drew lines for state Senate and House districts.

In the lower courts, judges ruled that the gerrymandering was acceptable under the Constitution. In the Pennsylvania case, the fact that the Democrats had not been “completely shut out of the political process,” was their criteria for fairness. The Supreme Court has already heard arguments on the Pennsylvania case and a decision is expected by summer.

“It could have the same force as a class 5 hurricane,” said Timothy Storey, an expert on redistricting from the National Conference of State Legislatures, “altering the landscape in a way not seen since Baker v. Carr.” That 1962 case imposed one-person, one-vote rules on all legislative bodies.

Another story lending insight to how the “democratic process” truly works, is the campaign by the Democratic Party to keep consumer-advocate Ralph Nader from running an independent campaign for the presidency.

The leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which is the policy-making wing of the Democratic Party, continues to blame Nader in part for the Bush victory in 2000.

The fact that it was gross illegal activity conducted by the state of Florida, under the direction of Governor Jeb Bush, the Electoral College system and the United States Supreme Court that determined that election, takes a back seat to the scant 2.74 percent of the vote garnered by Nader.

The anti-Nader rhetoric is really driven by the monopoly of the entire electoral process demanded by both the Democrats and Republicans, an advantage they are unwilling to lessen. It is essential to the continued domination of American culture and society that the capitalist class requires.

Another, and perhaps the most blatant example of how politics is manipulated in the United States, is the repeated introduction of Trojan horses and sleight of hand distractions designed to confuse the citizenry from what is really being done to undermine their vote—and thus democracy; and direct their attention to second and third-rate issues.

The history of the U.S. is rife with examples of this bait-and-switch political farce. Recent years have seen the focus of the electoral process shifted away from important developments like the war against the people of the developing nations of Southeast Asia, Latin and South America, Afghanistan and Iraq, to endless debates about school prayer and burning the American flag.

Today, newspapers and the electronic media are dedicating millions of dollars in assets to cover the witch hunt being directed by a bipartisan conglomeration of elected officials and the religious right against the gay and lesbian community. The topic selected to keep Americans divided this time, the right of citizens to marry.

Of particular note is the role of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in condemning the “abhorrent” life styles of homosexuals as immoral and unnatural. Funny how these same hypocrites turned a blind eye to, or worse, covered up for the thousands of sexual predators who have served as “shepherds of the flock” while molesting innocent children throughout the ages.

On March 2, Jason West, mayor of the tiny village of New Paltz, New York was charged with 19 criminal counts for performing wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. If convicted, the 26-year-old Green Party member could face a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

As the list of lies and acts of deceit carried out by President Bush and his henchmen in their haste to conduct their criminal war against the people of Iraq grows—and most recently, in Haitie, it is the specter of marriage between consenting adults of the same gender that is being raised as the greater evil.

In closing, the words of California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger best illustrate the intellectual depth of the anti gay/lesbian marriage forces; “In San Francisco it’s a license for marriage of the same sex,” Schwartzenegger said. “Maybe the next thing is another city that hands out licenses for assault weapons and someone else hands out licenses for selling drugs—I mean, you can’t do that. We have to stay within the law.”


In a recent interview, the governor told national columnist and host of “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, “all of a sudden we see riots and we see protests and we see people clashing. The next thing we know is there’s injured and there’s dead people.”

Since there have been no reports of violence related to the same-sex marriage issue, according to the San Francisco Police Department, the office of state Attorney General Bill Lockyer suggested that Schwartzenegger might have confused the situation with “part of his next movie.”

The bottom line is that while the methods employed may differ, the process of electing public officials in the United States is no more democratic than what is taking place in Iran, despite assertions to the contrary by the New York Times.





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