A Model of Spiritually Based Elections
Imagine an election without nominations, candidates or campaigning—an election that operates in a spiritual atmosphere and is based entirely on principled conduct.
To those who equate elections with divisiveness, mud-slinging and taking sides, the Baha’i system of elections may seem like an unattainable ideal, but it was demonstrated in action at the Baha’i National Convention.
From May 18 to 21, 2023, Baha’is representing localities from across the United States will gather at the Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois for the 111th Annual Baha’i National Convention. They will elect the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the nine-person assembly that will guide the affairs of the national Baha’i community for the coming year.
This lay council fosters the vibrancy of Bahá’í communities and strengthens their participation in the life of society. This is how the Baha’i Faith is organized without clergy.
Baha’is come from virtually every ethnic, racial and tribal background, and the delegates reflect this diversity. They come from 171 geographic units across the United States. Each delegate was elected to represent their district in a “unit convention” held the previous October.
Delegates may vote for any adult member of the American Baha’i community who possesses the necessary qualities of selfless devotion, a well-trained mind, recognized ability and mature experience.
Delegates and those elected to serve on local and national Baha’i institutions offer this service as volunteers and are generally not compensated for this service.
Most years, National Conventions are held in late April during the 12-day Festival of Riḍvan, which commemorates Baha’u’llah’s announcement in 1863 that He is God’s Messenger for this era.
Every five years—and 2023 is one of them—the National Convention is held in late May due to the international convention at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, Israel, where embers of more than 180 National Assemblies from around the world gather to elect the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith.
The election of the first Universal House of Justice in 1963 very likely constituted history’s first global democratic election. Each of the successive elections since then has been carried out by an ever broader and more diverse body of delegates, representing a cross-section of the entire human race.
At a time when trust in government is eroding everywhere in the world, and when the electoral process in many nations has become discredited due to corruption, this new model of governance serves as an antidote to apathy, alienation, and despair.
It is a model for a positive and practical means of governing a just and unified global society.