Should Canadian Iranians Vote In Tehran's Presidential Poll?
A week before Iran’s presidential poll, the spokesman of the electoral commission Esmail Musavi has accused Canada of acting against international norms by not allowing voting to take place on its territory for people of Iranian origin, Fars news agency close to the Revolutionary Guard reported on Friday.
But there are no clear international rules or a universally accepted practice for countries to allow others to hold elections on their territory. It mostly depends on relations between two counties if the host nation would agree to have its territory host elections for another state.
Iran and Canada have not had diplomatic relations for nine years. In September 2012, Canada announced it was closing its embassy in Tehran mainly citing Iran’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria as civil war in that country was raging and the Assad’s forces were accused of war crimes. Canada also cited Iran’s lack of non-compliance with United Nation’s resolutions regarding its nuclear program and fear for its diplomats in Tehran.
Musavi said that Iran’s permanent mission to the UN headquarters in New York pursued the issue with the Canadian delegation and Iran sent a letter to Canada through the Swiss embassy in Tehran but so far Ottawa has not responded.
Canada adopted the same policy in Iran’s 2017 presidential election, when it did not allow Tehran to organize voting on its territory. The same happened in 2013 and when Hassan Rouhani was elected president Canada’s foreign minister at the time, John Baird called the poll “effectively meaningless”. He accused the Iranian government of silencing "all open, meaningful discussion of key issues that affect ordinary citizens and denied Iranians the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association."
Once again, like in 2017, Musavi said Iran is planning to set up voting in a US city close to the Canadian border for Canadian Iranians to travel to and vote. Iran sets up many voting stations in the United States, where more than a million Iranian dual citizens live. Canada hosts slightly more than 200,000 people of Iranian origin, but not everyone has maintained Iranian citizenship.
For advocates of democratic participation, facilitating voting in other countries is a positive value, especially in cases of mass migration during wars and conflicts when refugees are forced to flee to a neighboring country. But in the case of Iranians in Canada, many have claimed asylum but have kept their Iranian citizenship, which is a contradiction of sorts as they regularly travel back to Iran.
While most Western countries look the other way, in fact voting in an election organized by a government that you fled from and claimed asylum can be a violation of asylum rules. Usually, seeking political asylum means a person claims his life or liberty is in danger from a particular government or in a particular country. Obtaining asylum and then travelling back to that country or voting in its election might undermine the basis of the claim.