The Iranian legislative elections taking place today [March 2] are the most delicate and important in the history of the Islamic Republic. Various Iranian officials have agreed on this fact, including the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, who said, "The current parliamentary elections are more sensitive than all previous elections.”
This time, the electoral competition is not simply between the candidates. The competition, in one aspect, is between the entire Iranian regime and its foreign opponents. At the domestic level, this election represents an opportunity for Iranians to produce a coherent authority capable of meeting the challenges they face. Externally, the election represents—from the opponents’ point of view—an opportunity to work on reviving the "green sedition" [the Green Party] and emulating the Syrian model of the Arab Spring in Iran.
Iran's ninth parliamentary election will be critical for the regime, as the number of voters will reveal the level of popular support for the Islamic regime. There is international speculation that these figures [will be smaller than they were during the last elections] and that this will undermine the regime’s legitimacy. Second, these elections are the first since the significant events that followed the 2009 presidential elections. Third, the results of the election will play a crucial role in determining who will succeed Ahmadinejad as president of the republic.
The competition in the current election is out of the ordinary, as most reformists did not take part in the parliamentary race. However, even in a purely conservative race there will be disputes between conservative factions.
In Iran, 23 reformist groups are divided among three main political currents. However, their nonparticipation will not impact the electoral balance. Reformists are active in 20 provinces, and their boycotting of the elections would not significantly decrease voter turnout. The average level of public participation in the electoral processes during the Iranian Revolution reached nearly 62 percent. It is unlikely that this turnout will fall below 50 percent, since some reformists would rather cast a white [willfully invalid] vote rather than boycot. They reason boycotting would turn the elections into a referendum on the regime. Some other reformists still hope to return to power through street protests rather than through parliament.
In turn, the conservatives are divided between the Principalists, who are against President Ahmadinejad, and the Mahdaweyeen [those who await the return of the Mahdi, the 12th imam] who support him. The Principalists are divided and include such factions as the United Front of Conservatives and the Insight and Islamic Awakening Front. Several candidates appear in all of the Principalists’ lists simultaneously. Ayatollah Mehdi Kani, one of Iran’s most prominent conservative leaders, said, "We wanted to form one unified list for the Prinicipalists and we ended up with 13 lists." What is interesting about these lists is the presence of positive competition, as they differ electorally, not politically.
Those parties close to Ahmadinejad, such as the Monotheism and Justice Party and the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability, are less likely to win, even though large segments of the population support the president. They are less likely to win because the Iranian street is bitter over the president’s intervention in the last elections. This is reminiscent of Hashemi Rafsanjani's experience in the last year of his second term, where he began losing popularity as he tried to ensure his political future by interfering in the 1996 parliamentary elections.
Among the conservatives, a third, moderate party is campaigning under the "People's Voice" list led by MP Ali Motahari, who is the son of the martyr scholar Motahari. The group is running under the slogan "Dialogue with the Reformists," and is projected to win a significant number of votes.
There are two main factors controlling the votes of the people: namely, the economic program in light of international sanctions, and the ability to face external threats.
The current Iranian election will have important repercussions on Iran beyond its immediate outcome. Although it is too early to definitely predict the main repercussions, it is likely that they will include reform without the participation of reformists, and conservatives without Ahmadinejad.
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