Sam Ghandchiسام قندچيDemocracy is Not People's Rule, It is People's Judgment

Sam Ghandchi

دموکراسی حکومت مردم نیست، قضاوت مردم است




It is true that democracy is avoidance of a form of rule that is not the rule of law, namely avoidance of tyranny. But rule of law without the institutions of judgment by the people is not democracy either.  Hitler came to power with the democratic majority vote, but from the moment the most important institution of German people's judgment, namely the Reichstag was closed down, the German democracy was ended.  Although his regime was still the rule of law, i.e. the fascist law.


Karl Popper, the contemporary philosopher, in an interview during the last years of his life says that it is dangerous to teach people and particularly children that democracy was the rule of people, i.e. popular rule, which is not true, and he thought once they become aware of the truth, they will feel cheated and let down, and he thought they can get disappointed and this can even lead them to terrorism.  Democracy has never been people's rule, nor can or should it be. [See Karl Popper's "Lesson of this Century", Publ. 1997]


People who elect the government are not able to make decisions about complex issues like nuclear polities or long term space projects or the likes.  But after a while, people can see the results of the most complex policies, and in a system where the institutions of *judgment* by the people have power, in the next elections, those policies and the individuals responsible for those policies, can be elected again or rejected.


Many dictatorial regimes have called their rule that of workers state, or rule of the deprived, or the people's rule, to hide the reality of the state.  As Popper notes, "Hitler came to power legitimately, and that the Enabling Law that made him a dictator was passed by a parliamentary majority", thus the issue of legitimacy of *who* should rule is not the issue, and as I have explained elsewhere, the difference is about *how* to rule.


In fact, people's *judgment* in all three areas of legislature, executive, and judicial, is the meaning of democracy, from the election of representatives of parliament and president, to election of judges, and participation in the juries.  Continuous judgment by the people, at various levels, has been the main pillar of all modern democracies, and democratic constitutions should define, and support, the details of freedom of various institutions of judgment by the people.


Even unelected state organs such as the Supreme Court in the U.S. law is not part of judicial branch and is part of the legislative branch and its function has been assumed to be limited to the *interpretation* of the law, and it does not have executive authorities such as confirming the candidates of Congress, or approving the elected representatives.  Nonetheless, many visionaries had thought such muscle bestowed to an unelected body could be problematic, and they thought "it was a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution had only once led to armed conflict."  [See Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Page 640]


Now if we take a look at the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), we will see that not only lack of secularism has turned the judgment in the society to apartheid against non-Muslims, but even ordinary Muslim people have no rights of judgment, and in that system, judge and prosecutor are one, and they are the Shi'a clergy, and even among them, a combination of the heads of judiciary and part of  Guardian Council (GC) and other members of IRI elite forms Expediency Council (EC), which is Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches of the state put together, and this way the candidates for the parliamentary election are confirmed by GC, when half of its members are members of EC.  This is not the first task of GC and will not be its last. If in this case they have a legislative and executive role, with regards to the chained murder case trial, they had a judicial role as well.


Expediency Council (EC) was formed following the 2nd of Khordad movement, to neutralize that development.  If 2nd of Khordad was a movement where the people tried to use the little republicanism and parliamentarism that was present in IRI against it, EC in contrast, was an attempt to even the minute republican traits of the regime, by creating a semi-Islamic Supreme Soviet, in parallel to the Islamic Parliament, and the result was further removal of people's judgment from the IRI system.  The system uses deceptive slogan of people's rule with a sham that Communist states exploited to deceive the people, when institutions of judgment by the people, such as the political parties, newspapers, and free elections were blocked or severely censored. In practice the conflicts of various organs of IRI, such as the animosity of parliament and Guardian Council, can end up in a civil war.


Slogans of rule of law by Khatami and the IRI reformists, as democracy, are to distract the people and to offer a wrong image of democracy, when the most important criteria of democracy, i.e. the institutions of judgment by the people, are hidden from the eyes.  How can a regime be called a democracy and the issue of freedom of political parties to be treated with silence for so many years?


Both Pahlavi monarchy and IRI did not allow the flourishing of the institutions of judgment by the people, and they blocked and banned these institutions. From newspapers and magazines, to political parties, courts, and parliament, all have been under control of the monarchy and clergy.  The ballot boxes in both systems were meaningless.  In fact, any other political force that is silent in its ideals about the institutions of *judgment* by the people, when talking of democracy, has not really understood the meaning of democracy.


When for the first time, Iranian people in 2nd of Khordad used the levers of IRI against Islamic Republic itself, IRI was so panicked that it was afraid the next step to be the real reformists of Iran such as Forouhars, Mokhtaris, and Pouyandehs to come to the scene, and thus IRI committed the heinous chained murders.  Today the problem of regime is not the people's use of the levers of IRI, and even some real reformists like Forouhars to come to the political scene is not IRI's main fear.


The real issue of the regime in Iran today is people's entry into  realm of judgment, which is the real meaning of democracy and the actual fear of regime is from this development.  It does not seem like that even to shoot the people in the streets will stop them from entering this real realm of democracy and this is how people have been playing with boycotting and participating in IRI elections showing their resolve to be the judges of the state.


People in 1979 came to the streets and gave blood but their demand was not to get increasing role in the judgment of the state.  In contrast, today the best judges do not understand the Iranian people, and they want to judge for Iranian people, the same way monarchy and later the clergy had done for centuries, to decide for people and to announce it to them.    Those days have long passed.


The organs of judgment by the people, from the scientific associations to student groups , are in contact with similar institutions aboard, and these relations are increasing every day.


From the chained murders to the fatwas of Ayatollah Jannati against the Internet, these attacks on Iranian people, are not able to stop the new roaring waves. Iranian people will judge all three branches of the state, legislative, executive, and judiciary.  Whether Fayzieh of Qom and OMIR (Organization of Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution) take Iran to the border of a civil war, or if they get united to draw their sword against the people, every day the Iranian people are taking another step closer to a secular republic, a republic with real institutions of judgment by the people.  This time contrary to 1979, we will not be exchanging one dictatorial regime with another whether by revolution or reform.


Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,


Sam Ghandchi

January 19, 2004



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For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran