The elections in Iran aren't free, but they're still important. Regardless of the result, they still show the great potential for democratization comments Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
The next Iranian presidential election take place on June 14. Only free elections can bring actual democratic changes and reforms, but elections in Iran are anything but free. The unelected state organ, the Council of Guardians interferes massively in the voting. Potential candidates are disqualified for even the most harmless political criticism, or on purely personal grounds - often without any justification.
This was the case with the last presidential election in 2009, when around 300 people registered, but the Council of Guardians only confirmed four as candidates qualified enough for the office of president. One of these was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while all the other three already held high positions in the Iranian state.
Nevertheless Iranians streamed to the voting booths to vote for the candidate they believed came closest to meeting their expectations. But Ahmadinejad was declared the winner before all the votes were counted, and the state answered subsequent peaceful protests with shootings and arrests.
The reformers Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, two of the three challengers to the incumbent, were arrested and put under house arrest without any legal basis or charge.
Good potential for change
All this throws dark shadows over Iran. Moreover, the country faces serious economic sanctions and poverty that is spreading throughout the country and making life very difficult for its people.
The only way out of this political cul-de-sac would be if a freely-elected government took over - a government that ended international conflicts, led Iran out of its isolation, and stopped violating human rights. This can't be achieved in the short term, but Iran has the potential to change and transform. The young Iranian society, the powerful citizen's initiatives, the women's and workers' movements - in the right constellation and circumstances, these players can form a good foundation for freedom and democracy in Iran.