The Truth Behind Bahai Elections
Baha’i Administration consist of two arms the “Elected” and the “Appointed”. With the passage of time it became evident that some undesired candidates may find their way inside the administration. Hence it was necessary for the Baha’i administration to put a check on these undesired candidates and to have a mechanism of indirect nomination of “approved” candidates only.
So the need of the hour was programming the elected arm in such a way so as to control it by indirect nomination but in the name of election. Therfore in January 2001, the UHJ released a letter in which it defined the sphere of power of the appointed arm in precise terms.
In the Message There was a general shift in balance between the appointed and elected arms as well as the further development of new organs of administration. While the UHJ retained ultimate authority as head of the religion, the appointed arm clearly had more weight, power and authority than the elected arm. This was viewed by some as a step “backwards” imitating religious hierarchies of the “past”, in which unelected priestly elite retained ultimate control and power over the religion and the fortunes of its followers.
The perception was further strengthened by the nature of the Baha’i electoral process in which the incumbent members of the House of Justice were virtually guaranteed re-election, and could control future membership through nominating favored candidates to sit on the International Teaching Centre, signaling the House’s “approval” in the case of election for absent seats due to death or retirement. It is noteworthy to see that out of ten elections held for the House none of the sitting members were unelected unless he himself opted out or retired. This was against the sprit of the election as Shoghi Effendi said:
“Concerning the qualifications of the members of the spiritual assembly; there is a distinction of fundamental importance which should be always remembered in this connection, and this is between the spiritual assembly as an institution, and the persons who comprise it. These are by no means supposed to be perfect, nor can they be considered as being inherently superior to the rest of their fellow-believers. It is precisely because they are subject to the same human limitations that characterize the other members of the community that they have to be elected every year. The existence of elections is a sufficient indication that assembly members, though forming part of an institution that is divine and perfect, are nevertheless themselves imperfect”.
True to prediction, in the most recent UHJ election held in 2003 and 2009, the two retiring members in were replaced by two men from the International Teaching Centre. It will remain to be seen whether this pattern of indirect nomination of “approved” candidates continues.
In 2003 Mr. Payman Mohajir and Mr. Paul Lample were elected to UHJ both the members were from International Teaching Centre.
Again in the most recent election held in 2009 the two retiring members in were replaced by two men from the International Teaching Centre. Mr. Stephen Birkland and Mr. Stephen Hall.
This manipulation of the Administration and election is named as Spiritual Character of Baha’i Administration and divinely conceived Administration.