Amir Bajehkian: "Where is my Vote?” 2.0

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      By Amir Bajehkian

      Growing up in Iran meant you had no way of escaping politics. Every discussion was about politics and politicians. And ever since I was a small kid, I was drawn into the room of adults analyzing the politics of my homeland, and the world. Of course, it was just a means of venting.

      Yet for most of my life (I mean the first quarter of the century), I was just an opinionated youngster. I had a lot of opinions and "analysis" about why things suck in my homeland of Iran. 

      That includes my first four years in Canada. I came to this country in 2005, and I was totally disillusioned about voting in my home country’s elections. Mohammad Khatami, a reformist (not the Canadian type—he was as close as you can get to “socially liberal" in the Islamic Republic of Iran) president was about to leave office, his base was alienated, and the youth, who put their heart out to get him to power were all disappointed. And yes, I was on the "let's not vote" side.

      But four years of AhmadiNightmare (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) was enough to rethink our avoidance. And in 2009, the youth, the disappointed activists, and many others came out to defy fear and hostility and mobilized people to vote for a future based on hope. The tide was strong enough to convince this boy to skip his class and vote in the Iranian presidential election of 2009. My designated polling station was in Seattle. Fun Drive.

      But our hopes were stolen. The election was rigged. In turn, my people came out in peace asking "Where is My vote?" The response was…well, let's just say, not peaceful.

      On June 12, 2009, my life turned upside down. My vote was stolen. And that’s what motivated me to get active, far, far away from the homeland. No one shall betray my vote and get away with it.

      With the turn of events, 2009 feels like a century ago. In 2009, I stood up against the most shameless rigging of all time. And today, I live in a society where the integrity of the elections is not under question. But the beauty of democracy is that better is always possible.

       I, the naughty boy of 2009, evolved (sort of). I shifted my focus from far, far away to what’s home right now. Yet the sacredness of “the vote" never escaped me. I never skipped any provincial or federal election ever since. The pledge remains the same: my voice has to be heard, and my vote has to be counted. 

      That’s why in the referendum, I vote “yes” to proportional representation. 

      I want my vote to be "equal" regardless of who I vote for and where I vote. I want to live in a society where all votes are equal, not one where some votes are “more equal”.

      I am very vocal about my beliefs. I don’t shy away from disagreements. But, and this is to the politicians out there, “I did not come here to watch you yelling at and heckling each other at question period, or during political debates.”

      My ideal form of politics is to find common ground. I find my satisfaction in working with people toward mutual ground. Yes! Even our adversaries.

      As a voter, I want to make politicians set aside their ego (not their differences) and work toward common ground. I do not want to see one party, and just one party, have a monopoly over policies for four years, only to see the next one trying to wipe their achievements. Nothing is engaging about a "predictable" parliament, where the results are known in advance.

      Finally, are you opposed to pro rep because you are worried about fascist and anti-immigrant parties? Did you ask immigrants and brown people their opinion? I find it disappointing to see a top-down approach, in which folks decide what’s bad for us without asking us. I am a brown, "Muslish" immigrant (I am of Muslim background). And I am more worried that a fringe or extremist group will take over a mainstream party and win the majority because of first past the post.

      As Andrew Coyne said, we can’t solve our "Nazi problem" (if we have any) by rigging the system. FPTP or pro rep, Nazis need to be stopped by significant efforts. As an immigrant, I have an interest in defying Nazis and other extremists.

      If you want to help, perhaps you need to actually work with our communities, rather than telling us what’s good or bad for immigrants. 

      Amir Bajehkian is a Flight Data Analyst based in Vancouver. He is also a member of the B.C. Multicultural Advisory Council, and the president of Green Cedar Consulting Ltd. The opinions expressed in this piece reflect his personal point of view.