Iran vote (La Presse)

Iran’s Parliamentary Elections and What to Expect From Them

The Iranian elections are upon us and this point in time could not have come at a tenser stage with immense ongoing geopolitical and foreign policy activity in Iran and the surrounding region. Let’s go back to the start of this year. Iran faced a nervy opening to the year 2020. Firstly, the General of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corp, Qasem Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on January 3. Next, in the following days whatever happened shocked the entire world to its core. The downing of a Ukrainian airliner as it took off from capital Tehran on January 8.

Amidst a political mess and the maximum pressure campaign by the U.S., there weren’t many options on the table. Iran initially denied that it had struck the airline. However, international pressure and the push to investigate the incident brought Iran to its senses and Tehran eventually admitted later on that it was actually the Iranian forces which had struck the harmless Ukrainian airplane that had taken off from the airport just moments ago.

Iran’s Current Tense Situation

Iran is at a stage today where it faces many problems. The main problem that it faces is the non-compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Following immense pressure, Iran agreed to curb the enrichment of uranium for nuclear purposes but if we look at that situation today, it’s not what it was meant to be. The U.S. has withdrawn from that treaty due to President Trump’s administration and Iran has also said that it will not abide by the agreement. The European Union is also pressurizing Iran to return back to the deal and closely follow what it states. However, Iran’s reluctance is above all else. President Trump’s crippling actions have also sent the Iranian economy on a spiraling, downward destination.

Iran’s Upcoming Elections

Amidst all the chaos, Iran is now going to hold the parliamentary elections. In a country where the workings are maintained by the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, there’s not much to say when it comes to the opposition. In addition, the external pressure is growing on Iran has made the public extremely radicalized. They believe a strong response is needed to counter daily threats and attacks on its leaders. Furthermore, the killing of the general was also a major factor in driving the public more into nationalistic sentiment. However, President Hassan Rouhani is also under fire for not fulfilling the demands of Iranians who for years have been kept under the carpet. Just recently, major protests against fuel subsidies in Iran threatened Rouhani’s existence as the country’s leader but the protests were soon quelled swiftly.

Iran’s Hard-liners Have a Strong Advantage

The ruling hardliners in Iran will definitely gain the upper hand in these elections as Iran’s Guardian Council has already disqualified half of the 14,000 candidates who had applied in December to run in the race. Those who have been shown the exit were mostly Reformists or Moderates. As a result of this move, there won’t be a Reformist running against the Hardliners. The election is scheduled for February 21 and the second round will commence in May.

In order to understand what the factions involved in these elections are aiming for, let’s briefly analyze their construction.

  1. The Principle-ists: These are the ones who are naturally positioned on the left economically. They desire a greater say of the government in public and social life and are also against negotiating with the west. This faction supports the Supreme Leader and are closely associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp.
  2. The Conservatives: Economically, they can be placed on the right. They are the opposite of what the Principle-ists desire. For example, they are more interested in negotiating with the outside world where more support can be gained from, they do not want the state to be regularly involved in economic matters and would rather have a say of their own than follow the government’s regulatory policies.
  3. Reformists and Centrists: Reformists support structural reforms and look to enhance the role of democracy in the country. The Centrists on the other hand, are looking more towards the liberalization of the economy and at the same time want more engagements with the outside world.

How Do Iran’s Elections Work?

Anyone who is an Iranian citizen and over the age of 18 is eligible to vote. In order to run for elections, the candidate must be between the ages of 30-75, mentally and physically fit and be sufficiently literate. The Iranian parliament has a unicameral structure and it has 290 seats, 285 of them are for direct elections, the remaining are for minorities.

The most important provinces to watch out for in these elections are Tehran, Esfahan, Khuzestan and Khorasan. The main figures to watch out for during these elections are Mostafa Salim, Majid Ansari and Mohammad Ghalibaf.

The general Iranian public is way ahead of the Iranian state. A public which wants more freedoms and better reforms is in dire need of change that could hopefully uplift their lives. With an economic crisis that has been prolonging for years, there’s not much chance for them but to believe in those they vote for and hope that change arrives. The public wants the system to open up to more public accountability to begin with. Secondly, strong leadership rather than promises are needed in the country which will help bring back the confidence that has been lost in the eyes of the public. These elections will definitely shape the future of the country in immense ways.

However, the political discourse will continue to remain the same as the Islamic Revolutionary mindset is keenly embedded in the state’s workings. In my opinion, with strong domestic support and a coherent and united approach towards solving both internal and external issues, Iran will will soon be on a path to improvement and greater stability.