Delivered by His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Mahdi
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I now read out to you the official statement issued by the office of His Eminence, Sayyed al Sistani, regarding the forthcoming parliamentary elections – I ask you to pay heed
In the name of Allah, the Merciful
With the parliamentary elections fast approaching, many citizens are asking themselves about the stance taken by the Supreme Religious Authority on this important political event.
First: Since the fall of the former authoritarian regime, the Religious Authority has sought to replace it with a system that adopts political pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power by resorting to the ballot box in free and fair periodic elections, in the belief that there is no alternative to this course of conduct for the governance of this country. It is our wish that we live in a country in which its people have freedom and dignity and enjoy progress and prosperity and preserve their true values and safeguard their higher interests. In furtherance of these aims, the Religious Authority demanded that the forces of occupation and the United Nations accelerate the holding of general elections to allow Iraqis to determine their own future by empowering their elected representatives to write the permanent constitution and to appoint members of the Iraqi government.
Today, 15 years later, the Religious Authority still believes that the course it chose is in principle the right and appropriate choice for the future of the country. We must avoid the perils of despotic rule and authoritarian regimes at any cost and under any pretext.
However, it is clear that the electoral process will not deliver satisfactory results unless certain conditions are met, including: the electoral law should be fair and protects the inviolability of the votes cast by the electorate and does not allow them to be circumvented, including: election manifestos compete on the basis of implementing economic, educational and public service programmes, that are far removed from personality cults, nationalism or sectarianism or a media circus, including: preventing external interference in the election process, whether by financial or other means, and to increase the punishment for such conduct, including: making the voter aware of the value of their votes and the important role it plays in shaping the future of the country, such that they do not sell their votes easily or cheaply or merely follow their passions or emotions or personal interests or tribal affiliations.
There is no doubt that the failures and disappointments that accompanied past electoral experiences, as a result of the abuse of power by many who were elected or by those who were appointed to senior positions in the government; and their participation in the spread of corruption and waste of public money in an unprecedented manner and granting themselves privileges with high salaries and bonuses, and their failure to perform their duties in the service of the people and provide a decent life them; was the inevitable result of not applying many of the necessary conditions, even in stages during the elections. The same phenomena can be observed in one form or another with the current run of elections; however, there is still hope that the course of governance can be reformed and the state institutions rehabilitated through the noble efforts of the people of this country and by the use of all available legal avenues.
Secondly: participation in these elections is the right of every citizen who is eligible and who exercises it in the conviction that it serves the best interests of his people and his country. He should be made aware of the fact that abandoning his electoral right to vote will give others an undisputed opportunity to put their chosen candidate in parliament, who may be very far from the aspirations of his people and his country. But in the end the decision remains for him alone whether to participate or not and the responsibility is his alone. He should therefore make it with full awareness and with a keen regard for the interests of the country and the future of its people.
Thirdly, the Supreme Religious Authority reaffirms its independent stance towards all the candidates and all electoral lists, in the sense that they do not support any single person or entity or list. It is left solely to the voters’ conviction and their views after careful examination and scrutiny, who to vote for.
It is imperative not to allow any person or entity to exploit the mantle of the Religious Authority or any other such guise, which has special status in the hearts of the Iraqi people, for electoral gains. The true example is in the competence, integrity, adherence to values and principles, rejection of foreign agendas, respect for the rule of law, readiness to sacrifice for the country and to serve its people, the ability to implement a realistic manifesto to solve the crises and problems that have plagued the country for many years. The way to make sure this happens is to observe the political process and the actions of the candidates and the heads of their lists, especially those who took up positions of responsibility following previous elections, in order to avoid falling into the trap of the deceitful corrupt criminals.
We ask God Almighty to lead us towards what is good.