Will Iranians be able to increase voter turnout in the next election?

Even though Iran's Reformist movement suffered a huge setback during the election qualification process, Reformist leaders are encouraging members to cast their votes.

al-monitor Former Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref stands on stage a week before announcing his withdrawal from Iran's presidential race, May 28, 2013. Photo by REUTERS.
Arash Karami

Arash Karami

@thekarami

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reformists in iran, parliamentary elections, mohammad reza aref, mohammad khatami, iranian elections 2012, hassan rouhani, guardian council, elections

Jan 28, 2016

Despite the mass disqualifications of Reformist candidates by the conservative Guardian Council for the February parliamentary elections, leaders of the Iran Reformist bloc are encouraging members to turn out and vote.

Mohammad Reza Aref, head of the Reformist Policymaking Council, wrote a letter to Reformist young people Jan. 27 encouraging “maximum participation” in the elections. As reported earlier, only 30 of the 3,000 Reformists who registered to run were approved.

A record 12,000 candidates applied to be registered; the Guardian Council said it did not have time to review all the applications.

Among the 2013 presidential candidates, Aref was the sole Reformist. At the urging of Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, Aref pulled out of those elections in favor of Hassan Rouhani, who was elected president. Now Aref is running in the parliamentary elections and is perhaps the most well-known active Reformist politician.

A Jan. 28 article in the Reformist Shargh Daily said that despite the discouraging news of disqualifications, Reformists on the whole seemed determined to participate in the elections. Journalist Mehdi Ghadimi wrote in the article that Aref’s letter to the Reformist youth shows that there is unhappiness in their ranks regarding the disqualifications, and the current negotiations between the Rouhani administration and the Guardian Council on the topic do not seem promising. Regardless, Ghadimi believes that, based on statements by Aref and other prominent figures, “Reformists will participate under any condition.”

Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, former Tehran mayor and head of the Executives of Construction Party, said in response to the disqualifications, “You must not sulk and leave the elections.” He added, “The only peaceful tool to resolve differences within the country is elections.” Karbaschi warned that if elections are eliminated as a means of resolving disputes, then “undemocratic” methods will be adopted.

Masoud Pezekshian, a Reformist parliament member from Tabriz who, according to Shargh, was the only Reformist candidate from Tabriz to receive a qualification, also warned against boycotting the elections, saying, “Having a presence in the elections is a principle and we must not ignore the ballot box.” Pezekshian said Reformists need to focus on those who have been qualified.

A statement by the National Trust Party also addressed voters “disillusioned over the disqualifications” and said they must “prevent a decrease in enthusiasm for the elections and keep alive their hope.”

Shargh said that Rasoul Montajeb-Nia, deputy head of the National Trust Party, summed up the overall Reformist position by saying, “In these elections we could have not participated over fear of disqualifications, but we stood for our words. We have the advantage of the experience of 2012 [parliamentary elections] and we are cohesive. There were many efforts [to keep us from reaching] the elections, but the planning of the elders resulted in this cohesiveness, and Reformists will try to enter this with one list.”

When Reformists mostly boycotted the 2012 parliamentary election over a 2009 post-election crackdown, the result was a mostly conservative parliament.

According to Ghadimi, Montajeb-Nia’s statement was the “stamp of approval of the ‘participating under any conditions’ strategy as the overall strategy of the Reformists in the upcoming elections.”

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