Jane Sanders: Iranian Elections 'Show the World How It's Done'

Jane and Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
May 23, 2017

Jane Sanders, the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), thinks the Islamic Republic of Iran can teach the world a thing or two about how to conduct elections.

Iran held its presidential election on Friday, and President Hassan Rouhani was reelected by a wide margin over his main challenger, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi. More than 70 percent of Iran's 56 million voters cast their ballots, giving Rouhani 57 percent of the vote.

Sanders applauded the high voter turnout, writing on Twitter over the weekend that "Iranians show the world how it's done." She was responding to liberal journalist John Nichols, who said the U.S. could learn from Iran's elections.

Neither Sanders nor Nichols mentioned that the Iranian regime has been accused of rigging elections, most famously in 2009, when then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won reelection under suspect circumstances. The election results sparked massive protests and demonstrations throughout Iran that the regime violently suppressed.

The Guardian Council, the powerful body that vets candidates for Iranian elections, controls who can run for president. This year over 1,600 hopefuls registered to run, but the council narrowed the field down to six finalists who were only allowed to campaign for about a month. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, directly or indirectly appoints all 12 members of the Guardian Council, giving him significant influence over who is allowed to campaign. The supreme leader appoints six clerics to the body, and the Iranian Parliament elects the other six from a pool of jurists nominated by the chief of the judiciary, who is appointed by the supreme leader.

No woman has ever been allowed to run for Iran's presidency.

Sanders also did not mention that the president's power is limited inside Iran, according to analysts. The supreme leader has the final say in virtually all matters of state–including over executive matters. While the president has some control over domestic issues, the office of the supreme leader and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps control the Islamic Republic's foreign, military, and nuclear policies. Iran's president has no say over these areas, according to experts.

Many people on social media mocked Sanders for her tweet, noting that the senator's wife did not mention the publicized issues with Iran's electoral system.