Iranian Elections: End of an Era?

Article Summary
The first round of voting in Iran’s parliamentary elections has seen the highest voter turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. Preliminary results favor ultra-conservatives at the expense of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, whose government has failed to address the grave problems facing the country, according to Mohammed Saleh Sodkeyan.

The outcomes of the Iranian parliamentary elections held on March 2 could have a drastic impact on its domestic and foreign politics, especially given the critical situation currently unfolding  in the Islamic Republic.
The high [voter] turnout lived up to the expectations of the Iranian leadership, which has been calling loudly for enthusiastic  participation so as to send a message to the Western countries - and the United States specifically - which are at odds with Tehran over its nuclear program and seeking to change the political regime in Iran.

According to some sources, negotiations will resume between Tehran and the Group of Six (G6) in April to discuss the Iranian nuclear program. This will be a political maneuver on the part of Iran to exert pressure on the G6 countries to recognize its full right to uranium enrichment, and the production of spent nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.

Domestically, voter turnout was consistent with the motives that led to the formation of 17 electoral lists, which mainly included conservative fundamentalist [candidates]. The lists were formed based on the candidates’ and political groups' positions towards the policy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the government and its programs, and the supporters of the President, particularly the Head of the Presidential Office, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who has been labeled by the conservative camp as the head of the "deviant current."

Some believe that the voters' compass was turned in two directions: Firs, towards new candidates able to assume responsibility; second, to the [established] candidates whose names were included in the various electoral lists. Voters were not convinced of the current parliament's positions, which were largely negligent of government programs. The government has failed to properly address the multiple problems facing the country, and to fulfill the promises that were made to Iranian citizens. Moreover, given high turnout for the first round of voting in the capital, Tehran, no candidate from the electoral lists was able to achieve a landslide at the expense of another candidate. Five candidates have won the first round.

If anything, the turnout indicated that the conservative bloc has failed to coordinate with the other movements in order to gain some ground in the electoral competition. It also reflected the divergence of views within the different mainstreams of this bloc over the government's program and President [Mahmud] Ahmadinejad. Moreover, Iranian voters seemed to have different views on the  positions of the candidates towards the key issues, specifically regarding Ahmadinejad's government. According to Al-Mashreq website, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, these elections spelled the end of the era of Ahmadinejad, especially given that Parvin Ahmadinejad, the President's sister, was defeated in their hometown of Garmsar.

While Iranian voters previously voted in favor of Ahmadinejad's government [in the disputed presidential election of 2009], the turnout of the current elections has proven that the Iranian people reject the president and his government, which have failed to address the many problems facing the country.

However, it is still difficult to predict the composition of the new parliament, since the winners of the second round [of voting] have yet to be determined. Candidates [running in the second round] will make up half of the 290-seat parliament. It should also be noted that a number of candidates are independent and do not belong to any electoral list. This is especially the case in [outlying] provinces, villages and rural areas. Thus, their political leanings are still undefined. Will these free candidates join the ranks of the government or those of the opposition? This question is especially [relevant] in light of the victory of  the "United Front of Fundamentalists" sponsored by the clerical community and the association of teachers in the religious center of learning at Qom. It is still uncertain whether the list of the "Front for the Integrity of the Islamic Revolution", overseen by [Ayatollah] Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, the radical cleric, will include independent winners from the provinces and small towns or not.

The remaining issue is the premiership of the new Parliament. In fact, [this post may be occupied by] the former Prime Minister Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, who led the list of the "United Front of Fundamentalists" and came in first in [his race] in the first round of voting in the capital, Tehran. [Another possibility] is the current Speaker of the House, Ali Larijani, from the city of Qom, who also came in first [in his race]. Morteza Agha Tehrani, who led the list of "Front for the Integrity of the Islamic Revolution,” and came in fourth in the capital, Tehran, may compete with them [for the premiership]. In fact, his candidacy depends on the composition of the parliament and whether Agha Tehrani proves capable of competing with the two strong figures of Haddad Adel and Larijani.

Moreover, sources believe that the premiership of the council will be limited to candidates nominated by the regime and who will also compete in the presidential elections in 2013. Neither Haddad Adel nor Ali Larijani will be nominated for these elections.


Found in: mahmud ahmadinejad, iranian politics, iranian elections 2012, iran

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