0855 GMT August 22, 2019
Citizens are the main owners of a city and among their natural rights is living in a town with favorable conditions. Today, creating such favorable conditions would not be possible in the absence of citizens’ participation in making decisions about the fate of their city, their supervision and ideas. Appointing individuals to an organization assisting the Islamic City Council of Tehran is among the tools and channels through which such essential requirements can be met. Establishment of these assisting organizations is a valuable endeavor to bring up responsible citizens.
On July 26, the urban management system of the Iranian capital passed one of its most important and demanding tests by holding the fifth local election to choose assistants to the Islamic City Council of Tehran with excellent characteristics different from those of the previous elections. On this day, over 3,600 citizens were elected as assistants to the Islamic City Council of Tehran through a completely legal, professional and precise process.
The fifth election had five important and distinctive characteristics which can be analyzed by civil experts:
The first characteristic of this election was voters’ turnout which was higher than what analysists expected. Despite the predictions, voters’ turnout was as high as their participation in the previous election. What adds to the significance and value of this feature is that the high turnout was seen despite insufficient electioneering campaigns and the numerous problems the holding of the election was faced with. Tehran’s urban management system hosted over 500,000 voters at polling stations across the city having minimum media facilities. This significantly high turnout shows that Iranian people adopt a responsible attitude toward palpable local issues. This election showed that the Iranian people’s priorities are different from those estimated by some analyst. Participation in handling a neighborhood’s affairs is significantly important for the people of Tehran when they know that they can play a role in this regard and have an impact.
Responsible formation of different, and, at times, non-political coalitions was among the other interesting and deeply remarkable characteristics of this election. These coalitions indicated that people do count on these assisting organizations for solving the problems of their neighborhood. Even in the southernmost parts of Tehran, important coalitions had been formed in view of each neighborhood’s problems and people’s cultural situation. Such events were not witnessed in the previous elections. In Javadieh, a neighborhood in south Tehran, a number of coalitions had been formed which mainly focused on cultural issues and urban economy. Another coalition was created in Nazi Abad, also in south Tehran, whose slogan, ‘Nazi Abad is Not for Sale’. This coalition was quite thought-provoking. What is inferred from the slogan is that Tehran’s citizens are highly sensitive to urban policies formulated for their city and neighborhoods and seek to participate in the decision-making processes. This is the same goal pursued by Tehran’s urban management system through stressing people’s right to participate in the process of resolving the problems of their city.
The third important feature of this election was people turning a blind eye to a number of incorrect political propaganda and analyses. Some of these analyses beat the drum for the negative impacts of US unilateral sanctions and a number of them for people’s reluctance to participate in the election. Being held ahead of another major vote slated for late February – Iran’s parliamentary election – the election to choose assistants to the Islamic City Council of Tehran was a great test for different analysts, political parties and, most important of all, officials of the country, the message of which was that Iranians are always prepared and present on the scene when they are needed and that politicians should try, more than ever, to solve their problems.
The fourth outstanding and distinguishing characteristic of this election was that it was held electronically. This significant accomplishment, which was a very great experience, was made thanks to the efficient managers of Tehran Municipality and the serious cooperation of the Interior Ministry. It can be a valuable model to adopt for holding future elections. The election was held across Tehran without any problem, at a very fast pace, with precision and based on a high level of trust. In addition, its preliminary results were announced one day after it was held.
Participation of young women and youths
The fifth characteristic of this election was the effective, serious and responsible participation of the country’s women and youths. A large number of candidates with educational degrees related to urban issues, responsibly accepted to be judged by the people of Tehran, which promises a bright future for the Iranian capital and its urban management.
The Islamic City Council of Tehran and Tehran Municipality, which have not spared any effort so far to make the slogan of ‘Tehran a City for All’ a reality, have now taken one of the most important steps to this end and see over 3,600 responsible citizens ready to accompany them down this path. It is hoped that once these assisting organizations resume their activities with their newly elected members, who are responsible, lively and energetic experts, Tehran inhabitants witness palpable changes in their city.
In the end, I would like to express my special gratitude to the wise people of Tehran, all the candidates who took part in the election and the newly elected assistants to the Islamic City Council of Tehran for their inspirational and encouraging participation, the Iranian government and Interior Ministry for providing the infrastructure to hold the election electronically and the respected members of the Islamic City Council of Tehran, Tehran’s police, the Ministry of Education as well as Tehran governor general’s office and Governorate for preparing the ground to hold the election peacefully.
* Pirouz Hanachi is the Mayor of Tehran.