What Iran’s Election Means – Analysis


Iranians are heading to the polls for parliamentary elections. The results will give a big clue about Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s intentions.

The results of the upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran, scheduled for March 2, will tell us much about Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ambitions and concerns, but little about what the people of Iran want.

This is because in all likelihood, these elections will be anything but democratic. It will be the Iranian supreme leader who decides who the winners and losers of these elections will be, and he won’t want to leave things to chance. With U.S.-led sanctions hurting his regime and undermining his legitimacy since the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, control of the regime is now more important than ever for Khamenei. This’s why he won’t want – or allow – the results of tomorrow’s election to be decided by anyone other than himself.

Fearing a low turnout, the Iranian regime will also likely come up with its own figure for how many people voted, so expect the official figure to be at least 60 percent, if not much higher.

There are more than 60 different factions participating in these elections, but three groups stand out as the most powerful –President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allies, backers of the ultra-conservative and messianic Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi (currently a member of the Assembly of Experts), and the United Principalist Front, which is made up of various conservative and traditional forces. The reformist allies of Mir HosseinMousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, meanwhile, have no chance of winning as they have been barred from even competing in the poll.

In the last parliamentary election, Khamenei gave a majority of seats to the pro-Ahmadinejad Jebhe-ye Mottahed-e Osulgarayan (United Principalist Front) faction, by allowing more of their candidates to qualify than their chief rivals, the anti-Ahmadinejad Etelaf-e Faragir-e Osulgarayan (Broad Principalist Coalition) faction.

But Ahmadinejad’s supporters are expected to do badly tomorrow, for a number of reasons. The most important of these is that Ahmadinejad has fallen out with Khamenei since last May. This is a problem for the president because it’s due to Khamenei’s support that Ahmadinejad won the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections. The same goes for the success of his supporters in the 2008 parliamentary elections. With Ahmadinejad’s relations with Khamenei deteriorating, and with growing tensions with elements within the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, the prospects for Ahmadinejad and his supporters are poor. It would be a huge upset if Ahmadinejad’s faction does somehow do well, especially as concerns grow that the weakening of Ahmadinejad’s is posing a threat to the stability of the regime.

The two groups with a better chance tomorrow are Yazdi’s ultra-conservative Paydari (steadfastness) faction and the comparatively moderate conservative United Principalists faction, whose members include the current Majles speaker Ali Larijani. The spiritual head of this faction is the current head of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani.

It’s unclear which group Khamenei will choose as the winner of most seats in the Majles, but his choice will likely be influenced by a few key issues.

This article appeared at The Diplomat and is reprinted with permission.

Meir Javedanfar

Meir Javedanfar has been described as “a respected, Iranian-born writer and analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations” by TIME magazine; a prominent Iranian-Israeli analyst by The Daily Telegraph; “one of the best informed observers” by Asia Times; and as “one of the most objective analysts” by Negarkha, a leading reformist news blog based in Iran. Javedanfar runs the Middle East Analyst website, a subsidiary of The Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company (meepas).

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