21 Aug 2006
In their efforts to combat tyranny and achieve freedom and democracy, theoreticians of various Iranian political groups have been recently placing constitutional monarchy vs. republicanism. Which one is more popular in Iran today has been debated without conclusion. Some view constitutional monarchy as the solution, while others see republicanism to be capable of doing the job. There are of course others too who advance a third way, which is the least reformist.
To really understand the issue, one must first recognize what constitutional monarchy is all about. If we have an accurate understanding of the constitutional movement we will conclude that the movement that was created for the imposition of a constitutional monarchy in Iran could have also been used to take the next natural step that would have ended up in a republic. In other words, these two models are not necessarily in opposition to each other, but can be sequential, or consecutive. The essence of constitutional monarchy is the emphasis on due process of law, national sovereignty, social justice, respect for civil society and the equality of citizenship rights. All of which take place within the realm of freedom. And this means the freedom to write, to express opinions, to think, and the separation of the organization of government from and ideological or religious structure. In other words, we can have citizens who are treated equally in society, distancing ourselves from a situation where people in a nation are divided into groups who are ‘with us’ and ‘against us’, where one law rules all. According to this, every individual is rewarded for what he has earned. Society is responsible to respect the rights of every individual and to provide for a respectable life for every one, not just a few, even who that are not endowed with the necessary capabilities.
The view that emerged in the course of the constitutional movement centered on creating a Parliament. This was a place where people’s elected representatives would gather and pass laws that had to be respected and followed by every agency, official and institution of the government and which were accountable to the public. So had a dictator like Mohammad Ali Shah not emerged to destroy the country, Iran would have gone a different path within the framework of the constitutional movement. That intervention, created a situation where the whole society which also included its thinkers and intellectuals, began to pursue a powerful man which led to the coup d’etat of Reza Shah. So if Reza Shah’s closed society had not imposed itself on the nation, we would have a republican regime today which had arrived through the constitutional movement that had started 150 years ago.
Unfortunately, Iran today is at the very starting point that it was 150 years ago in its constitutional movement. Today’s Iran desires an open society, due process of law and the comprehensive rule of law which would provide all citizens the right to determine their own future. The nation longs for a Parliament that seats their true representatives who have been directly elected by them.
Today, a 12-man appointed group (Guardians Council) gives itself the right to deny people their right to choose their own representatives. The Council presents some names to the public who are forced to choose ‘representatives’ from amongst them. With this arrangement, one can easily say that they the rulers not interested in elections in the true sense of the word or in people determining their own future through their representatives. We have the same problem in electing a president. In fact in all the elections that have taken place in Iran, the rulers have closed the door for the participation of legitimately popular individuals.
So the most important issue for Iran today is not about republicanism or monarchy. We are only at the start of a process that began 150 years ago and which produced a constitution in the early years of the 20th century. In practice, the movement was not allowed to continue its natural path. So it is natural for the Iranian nation today to be passing the monarchial stage and pursuing republican goals. It is very doubtful that we shall return to the model that we already once had. This is so because one of the characteristics of a republic is that it provides for a greater circulation of power among those who desire to be involved in running the country.
We must have a system that allows all qualified individuals to examine social issues within the context of 2 or more political parties and let’s them compete to choose a winner to rise to power. The minority shall not be denied its right to criticize. And this is not something that we have today. One can even argue that today we are actually worse off than we were 150 years ago. Even in those constitutional days and under those half proper governments, everybody had the opportunity to participate in government and reach senior and important political positions.
So as we celebrate the centenary of the constitutional movement, the desires and dreams of the Iranian nation are the same ones that they had 150 years ago, and it was hoped and believed that the 1979 revolution would provide them. Unfortunately, today we have lost much of what we had gained during this long struggle. Government is in the hands of a specific and monopolistic group and the principle of choosing the best for running the nation has been completely pushed aside. Today we witness that our Sunni compatriots that comprise some 15 million individuals are treated like 2nd or 3rd class citizens. We witness how the best faces of this land are driven out and disperse around the world, where they provide their services and knowledge. Those that remain are set aside by the powerful. Government is in the hands of a small few who are blocking the progress of the majority. So the dreams of the Iranian nation today are really the same ones that existed 150 years ago.