Saturday, May 14, 2011

Councils Reflect Democratic Values

We celebrated the anniversary of the creation of local Councils a few weeks ago. The major debates reflected in the media were focused on the current status of Councils throughout the country.  Even though the Constitution clearly gives full authority and status to councils elected by the people in governing the affairs of the Municipality and other local affairs, there have been many obstacles in this way.  President Khatami held the first elections after the Revolution in 1998 despite heavy criticism and  the uncertainty concerning the competence of the councils and their inexperience. Since then more than 30,000 urban and rural councils have performed their legal duties for three rounds. During these years they have gained more experience and have sought expertise in different areas of urban management. This has changed the face of many cities and villages in Iran and has provided a unique opportunity for people to take charge of their affairs in a democratic manner. Council elections are considered to be the most liberal elections in Iran due to the light vetting processes involved as compared to other elections.
During these years those who have  opposed the democratization of Iran and who essentially believe in the Islamic State as opposed to the Islamic Republic, have taken numerous measures to weaken and limit the role of the councils. The ninth and tenth governments in particular have displayed their animosity in face of urban councils and particularly Tehran. It is a common rumor that Ahmadinejad considers Ghalibaf the mayor of Tehran as his political rival and therefore seeks to weaken his image among the citizens of the Capital.
In short Councils in Iran are an important gauge for the democratic processes today. Their strength and success will reflect the  capability   of  the people in running their affairs and taking the matters of the country into their hands.

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