Kurdish Parties in Iran Divided Over Boycotting June Presidential Poll

FUAD HAQIQI – RUDAW – 28.5.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Ahead of Iran’s presidential election next month, Iranian Kurdish parties in exile remain divided over calling on supporters to boycott the vote, with one group dismissing the elections as “unfair and lacking real election standards.”

“There are no trustworthy candidates among them,” Karim Parwezi, member of the political bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) told Rudaw. “It also doesn’t matter who people will vote for, because in Iran the president has no real power anyway.”

But Muhammad Shafii, a spokesman for the Komala Party, said the Kurdish parties were deeply divided and lacking unanimity over a boycott.

“If the Iranian Kurdish parties call for the boycott together, they will make a stronger impression on the people,” Shafii said. The Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK), which during the 2009 election urged supporters to turn out at polling stations to vote, is taking a different approach this time. “This round of elections is different from the last one,” Shamal Piran, a PAK official told Rudaw. “This time there isn’t that much of a difference between the candidates.”

Qadir Ruya, a senior leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), which has remained neutral, said he thinks the elections are not democratic. But he said his group has to hear the agenda of the candidates before any official decision. “If we hear any candidate whose agenda leans toward minority rights, we may not boycott the elections,” he said.  In either case, said Ruya, we will not particularly encourage people to go out and vote. Of the 686 presidential candidates who threw their hats in the ring, Iran’s powerful Council of Guardians approved only eight. Among the rejects were former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and the current advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rahim Mashai.

Many Kurds in Iran could not help being hopeful about Rafsanjani, who intended to run as a reformist candidate. But his disqualification may have dashed that hope, said Kamil Nuranifard, a spokesperson for the Organization of Kurdish Struggle. “This time, too, we see no difference in the elections; the system of the Islamic Republic is just unchangeable,” he said. Unsure whether the Kurds in Iran would heed the boycott call by some Kurdish parties, Nuranifard said it was his party’s duty to tell people that these elections would not change their lives.

“Whether people will listen to us or not, it is out duty to tell people that taking part in these elections will make no difference for them,” he said. On June 14, as millions of Iranians go to the polls, they are also expected to elect members of their city councils. Nearly all Kurdish parties look on these local elections with more interest, and are not boycotting them. However, the Kurdish Communist Party of Iran has a consistent history of dismissing all presidential and provincial elections in Iran as illegitimate. “Voting in these elections is legitimizing the repressions and killings of the Islamic Republic,” said Khosrow Bokani, a political leader of the communist party. He said that his party has been successful at discouraging people from voting. “During the last two rounds when Ahmadinejad was a candidate it was considered a shame to go to the polls,” Bokani said.