Democracy refers to the way of life as it relates to the different perceptions and assumptions of persons who live together and as dictated by the common experiences of persons. Democracy is dynamic and hence the differences in approaches. In Iran and Lebanon, the approaches to democracy are similar on certain fronts and differ on other fronts. This paper seeks to carry out a comparison and a contrast of the democratic approaches as is the case in Lebanon and Iran.
For all the democratic governments, elections form a core part of the governance. In any kind of democracy, the consent of those who are governed dictates the authority that the government has. However, for the consent of the people to be translated into government authority then the elections have to be free and fair. In fact, all the modern democracies carry out elections but not all the elections are democratic (Gheissari, Nasr, and Nasr 35).
On the other hand, Lebanon has always boasted of being the only democracy in the Arab world. With the different flaws and the consensual type of democracy, Lebanon is known to provide very little freedom of expression, recourse to justice and have legitimate governments through elections (Dekmejian 252). In 2014, the country for second time postponed the constitutionally mandated elections and extended the term.
For Iran, the democracy inherent is rather confusing given that the country has a supreme leader who is normally not elected. Also, the president is often chosen in a manner that is not in any way related to a perfect election. Looking at the nature of leadership election one wonders whether Iran is a dictatorship or a democracy. In fact, there is a thin line between dictatorship and democratic tendencies in Iran. Even though the elections are carried out in Iran, they may not be termed as democratic. A case in point of undemocratic election happened in 2009 when there was a serious stealing of votes in presidential elections. At this time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was announced the winner in districts that did not support him. Rigging is known to be part of the elections in Iran (Gheissari, Nasr, and Nasr 43). The supreme leader has lots of power as far as hand-picking of individuals who run for the president is concerned. The people are not given the chance to participate formally in choosing the people to occupy the public office. In fact, when one is known to be moderate, they are rejected. In fact, those who are allowed to run are individuals who are considered as less-moderate. The leftists candidates are strongly rejected.
The situation is similar for the Lebanon government where the dissent voices are silenced. A case in point is the March 14th parliamentarians who were silenced till they could not vote. In fact, the democracy in Lebanon has deteriorated and is nearly an imperfect form of democracy. In fact, both Lebanon and Iran remain as severely flawed democracies owing to the management of democracies therein (Dekmejian 254).
In any democracy, there is a constitution that guides the people or the governed. The elected leaders are accorded powers according to the constitution. In fact, through the document, the excesses of the leaders elected are checked.
In Iran, it appears that there is no complete embracing of constitutionalism given the manner of electing the leaders. Interestingly, the supreme leader of the Irans Islamic Republic is not seen as tyrant due to the election process that he is subjected to, but rather as a guide and keeper of tradition. The supreme leader is mandated to embrace the changes in the society and at the same time safeguard the various changes in existence. Even though the state is mainly under the leadership of the president, the faith of the country is led by the supreme leader. This means that according to the rules of the land, any form of denying the country politico-religious paradigm ends up missing the point.
For most of the democracies around the world, there is a clear difference between state and religion. However, in Iran, the religion and state are one thing hence having its own sense of political fashion. This means that in Iran, the secularists have no place. The will of the people is strongly intertwined with the religious believes that they harbor.
Iran has a constitution that guides separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers. The President is elected for six-year term. There are 128 members of Parliament who are elected for a four-year term. The government is divided into six regions.
As much as the democracy has been evident in the country to some extent, it is undoubted that theocracy has taken center stage (Fairbanks 18). In Iran, Khamenei is the supreme civil leader and then laws are interpreted together with those of the religion. Even though theocracy has been in place since 1979, there has been presidential elections held in the country. The government was designed in a theocracy but it has deteriorated over time (Fairbanks 24). Having more than four decades of this form of leadership and Rouhani having all chances of being reelected, there are no expected changes in the country.
In Iran, the form of dictatorship that might be present is a just religious dictatorship and not regime dictatorship. In fact, every regime hold elections to have the leaders in place. Even though this has been the trend, it is also noted that the polls have no form of legitimacy. The vote by the people has no religious or legal credibility. The credibility lacks when it comes to determination of the countrys political structure, the definition of the constitution and election of the president. The legal credibility criteria that appear to be embraced is the legal consent of the supreme leader (Roeder and Rothchild 73).
The government of Iran is a republic and so it is evident that the state belongs to the people and not a ruler. The Supreme Leader who is in charge is not a monarch and there is no ruling dynasty. Lebanon is also a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government. The country has a cabinet that is led by a Prime Minister (Dekmejian 260).
Power and Authority
Just like any other democracy, the power and authority of leaders are defined in the constitution. There is the doctrine of separation of powers. The executive authority in Iran is separated between the President and the Supreme Leader. In Iran, Article 110 defines the critical issues in regards to the powers and authority of supreme leaders. Other definitions include that of commander-in-chief where he has the mandate to launch wars and declare peace among a host of several duties.
On the other hand, Lebanon is also construed as a democracy as it has some constitutional requirements that divide the various major offices into different sections. In fact, in the country, it is noted that the last true democratic mandate was realized by the known March 14th coalition. However, the group was not allowed to carry on with its mandate given that the military wing of the opposition decided to assassinate the parliamentary members of the March 14th up to a point when they could no longer form a quorum. Owing to this, there was a new balance of power as Hezbollah were given a place in the cabinet and effective veto over almost everything was allowed too.
For Iran, they will continue to hold elections just as any democratic state as much as they are perceived to be dictatorial. In the countrys velayat-e faqih system, there has never been a true meaning of democratic election. In this system, the selection process is supervised under the watch of the supreme leader. Interestingly, for Iran, there are no democratic political parties. What exists include the different factions amongst the different individuals who are loyal to the system, and each of them is seeking their interests in the establishment. For the regime officials in Iran, they have two main goals when carrying out elections (Takeyh 54). First is to provide individuals with a sense that they have a place in the religious state. Second is to misuse the people and elections as a way of providing legitimacy for the dictatorship so that they can silence those who think that Iran is undemocratic (Gheissari, Nasr, and Nasr 61).
For Iran, the main reason why election is carried out is to make the people feel that they have a role they play in the religious state and to make sure that they silence opponents who want to associate them with dictatorship.
Dekmejian, Richard Hrair. "Consociational democracy in crisis: the case of Lebanon." Comparative Politics 10.2 (1978): 251-265.
Fairbanks, Stephen C. "Theocracy versus democracy: Iran considers political parties." The Middle East Journal (1998): 17-31.
Gheissari, Ali, Vali Nasr, and Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr. Democracy in Iran: history and the quest for liberty. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Roeder, Philip G., and Donald S. Rothchild. Sustainable peace: Power and democracy after civil wars. Cornell University Press, 2005.
Takeyh, Ray. "Iran at a Crossroads." The Middle East Journal (2003): 42-56.
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