Ayatollah Sistani declares vote-buying ‘Haraam’
Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued a Fatwa (religious ruling), declaring vote-buying as Haraam (forbidden) ahead of the country’s parliament elections.
Speaking on behalf of the Ayatollah, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaei, called on candidates and political parties to respect election laws and avoid trying to influence voter decision through dishonest means.
“Candidates and political entities must adopt a realistic and feasible program to encourage people to vote for them,” Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai told worshippers during the Friday prayers sermon in Karbala’s Imam Hussein mosque.
“They should avoid making unrealistic promises… [They should] also refrain from slandering one another, because it is unacceptable and immoral,” he added.
Karbalai, who is a representative of the leading Shia spiritual leader, also noted that the religious leadership did not favor any particular group or candidate.
He said, however, that showing up at the ballot box on March 7 was not enough, stressing that everyone had a moral responsibility to choose the candidate that they believed would best secure Iraq’s present and future interests.
The cleric also explicitly stated that distributing money, gifts and promises of future handouts to impact election results are an impermissible act based on all religious and ethical principles.
“Accepting these sums is Haraam. Even if you disregard that fact, it would be degrading to Iraq’s national dignity if people start being drawn to a special candidate or group [for these reasons],” he explained.
Vote-buying is not an unheard of phenomenon in the Middle East, but Lebanon is considered on top of the list of regional countries where it is practiced.
According to a New York Times article, foreign money played a major role in determining the result of the country’s latest parliamentary elections, which ended in favor of the pro-West and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition.
Based on the American daily’s report, one adviser to the Saudi government has even confessed that Riyadh had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the elections in Lebanon, a country that only has a population of four million.
“We’re supporting candidates running against Hezbollah,” the Saudi advisor had told the New York Times.
The paper also said that Saad Hariri, the billionaire leader of the parliamentary majority and a Saudi ally, was alleged to be the biggest election spender.