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The Light of Divine Guidance (Volume 1)

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • Bahá’í Publishing Trust of Germany (Bahá’í-Verlag), 1982 edition
  • Pages:
  • 311
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Pages 67-70

Letter of 4 February 1935

4 February 1935
Dear Dr. Mühlschlegel,
The Guardian has duly received your letter of the 29th of January last, and has carefully noted the points which you had raised in connection with certain Bahá’í administrative regulations and principles governing the election of local and national assemblies.
First, he wishes me to express the hope that your next National Assembly meeting may be fully guided in its deliberations on the various issues confronting it at present, and also to assure you, as well as your co-workers in that body, of his prayers for the success of your efforts in this connection.
Now, as regards the number of delegates at the annual convention of the German friends, the Guardian fully approves of the practice which your N.S.A. has thus far adopted and enforced, namely to have 19 delegates instead of 95. This, of course, is the only solution possible for the present, in view of the limited number of the declared believers in Germany.
As to the practice of nomination in Bahá’í elections, this the Guardian firmly believes to be in fundamental disaccord with the spirit which should animate and direct all elections held by the Bahá’ís, be they of a local or national character and importance. It is, indeed, the absence of such a practice that constitutes the distinguishing feature and the marked superiority of the Bahá’í electoral methods over those commonly associated with political parties and factions. The practice of nomination being thus contrary to the spirit of Bahá’í Administration should be totally discarded by all the friends. For otherwise the freedom of the Bahá’í elector in choosing the members of any Bahá’í assembly will be 68 seriously endangered, leaving the way open for the domination of personalities. Not only that; but the mere act of nomination—leads eventually to the formation of parties—a thing which is totally alien to the spirit of the Cause.
In addition to these serious dangers, the practice of nomination has the great disadvantage of killing in the believer the spirit of initiative, and of self-development. Bahá’í electoral procedures and methods have, indeed, for one of their essential purposes the development in every believer of the spirit of responsibility. By emphasizing the necessity of maintaining his fully freedom in the elections, they make it incumbent upon him to become an active and well-informed member of the Bahá’í community in which he lives. To be able to make a wise choice at the election time, it is necessary for him to be in close and continued contact with all local activities, be they teaching, administrative or otherwise, and to fully and whole-heartedly participate in the affairs of the local as well as national committees and assemblies in his country. It is only in this way that a believer can develop a true social consciousness and acquire a true sense of responsibility in matters affecting the interests of the Cause. Bahá’í community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal and faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector, and also gives him the opportunity of raising himself to such a station. And since the practice of nomination hinders the development of such qualities in the believer, and in addition leads to corruption and partisanship, it has to be entirely discarded in all Bahá’í elections.
In connection with this, the Guardian wishes to draw your Assembly’s attention to the necessity of adopting the system of plurality voting rather than that of absolute 69 majority voting. For the latter, by making the repetition of elections a necessity, causes, though indirectly, much pressure to bear upon the person of the elector. The Bahá’í elector, as already emphasized, should be given full freedom in his choice. Anything, therefore, which can in the least interfere with such a freedom should be considered as disastrous and hence should be completely wiped out. In all elections, it is always difficult, that more than a few individuals of high position should obtain a majority of the votes of the electorate. Most of those elected have a plurality of votes. To enforce the principle of majority voting, therefore, it requires that the election be repeated again and again and until all the members to be elected have obtained more than half of the votes cast—a thing which becomes the more difficult when it is a matter of electing an assembly of nine persons. So, repetition in elections becomes inevitable. And such a repetition is in itself a restriction imposed upon the freedom of the electorate. The only course, therefore, is for every elector to write down the name of nine who he thinks are most worthy. These nine who obtain the highest number of votes, irrespective of the majority of the votes cast, will constitute the members of the Assembly.
As to your last question whether the individual voter can conscientiously vote for himself. The Guardian believes that not only the Bahá’í voter has the right, but is under the moral obligation to do so, in case he finds himself worthy and capable of assuming the responsibilities and duties imposed upon the members of every duly elected Bahá’í assembly. It is for every believer to carefully weigh his own merits and powers, and after a thorough examination of his self decide whether he is fit for such a position or not. There is nothing more harmful to the individual—and also to 70 society than false humility which is hypocritical, and hence unworthy of a true Bahá’í. The true believer is one who is conscious of his strength as well as of his weakness, and who, fully availing himself of the manifold opportunities and blessings which God gives him, strives to overcome his defects and weaknesses and this by means of a scrupulous adherence to all the laws and commandments revealed by God through His Manifestation.
With the Guardian’s greetings and best wishes to you and all the friends,…
[From the Guardian:]
May the Almighty protect, bless and sustain you in the historic services you are rendering His Faith, and graciously assist you to lay a firm and unassailable foundation for the future progress and extension of the newly-born institutions of our glorious Faith in your land.