Elections in Iran

Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, when a delegation from our parliamentary group recently visited Iran, we were actually surprised at the degree of discussion that took place there as well as at the willingness to engage in dialogue which was shown by the many young women who constitute the majority of the student population in Iran. Yes, the majority of university and college students are women. It is probably this very situation that prompted the Council of Guardians to curb and nullify the potential effects of what we, from our perspective, see as an encouraging development.
If we talk today about the elections in Iran, it would be quite legitimate for anyone to say that Iran should take its own decision and to ask why we are interfering. I would say yes, Iran – that is to say the population of Iran – should decide for itself. That, however, is precisely what the Council of Guardians wants to prevent. It is not a matter of reformers or non-reformers. If the non-reformers are elected, we shall have to live with that. The point is that the Council of Guardians operates a selection process from the outset to determine who is allowed to stand for election, and it is this very selection process that prevents the Iranian people from deciding freely. Such elections cannot produce a truly legitimate freely elected Parliament because of the way in which candidates are preselected.
We in the European Union have no option but to press for the most important changes that are needed in Iran, whatever happens at the polls. I am thinking here of the death penalty. The present moratorium on stoning, a particularly barbaric form of execution, must be scrupulously observed and even enshrined in a legal instrument. I am thinking of the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will probably be a matter for the new Parliament. Whoever is elected, we must press a clear case for ratification. I am also thinking of the situation in the Middle East, where we need Iranian support. Let there be no shortage of criticism – unsparing criticism – of these conditions in Iran. At the same time, the Commission will no doubt also have to work to ensure that all the main aspects of Iranian conduct in the Middle East are conducive to peace in the region. Be that as it may, the fact remains that we cannot but roundly condemn the approach adopted by the Council of Guardians.