LONDON: Iranian democracy has been “castrated,” the youngest son of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and a key figure in the 1979 revolution, told The Guardian newspaper.
Reacting to historically low turnout in Friday’s parliamentary election, which saw hardliners sweep to victory, Yasser Rafsanjani said: “Democracy has become a eunuch. It has been castrated. Our society is somehow sick. We are infected by viruses ... such as coronavirus but also a societal virus where people do not respect others.”
Friday’s turnout was just 42 percent. In Tehran it was even lower at 25 percent. Critics have blamed the low turnout on the regime’s clampdown on reformist and moderate candidates. Thousands were prevented from running for office, including 90 MPs who sought re-election.
“Now with these elections, it shows the Iranian hardliners are getting stronger,” said Yasser. “People vote when they think it will create change. The people felt they kept sending a message to the government but they are not heard.”
He added: “In the last elections, people voted for a Parliament to bring change, and it did not happen, but there are forces outside the Parliament — politicians, military guards — that limit the power of the Parliament.”
Yasser said if his father, who died in 2017, was still alive, he would be deeply disappointed in the state of Iranian politics.
Despite coming from one of the most prominent political families in post-revolution Iran, Akbar’s children have faced repeated difficulties with the regime.
Yasser’s sister Faezeh was jailed in Tehran in 2012 after calling for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s resignation and backing support for a female president.
Two of Yasser’s brothers, Moshen and Mehdi, are imprisoned, with Mehdi facing 15 years on charges of corruption.
Yasser said throwing people in jail for their beliefs is not the answer: “My father always said you can eradicate bodies but you cannot delete ideas.”