By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
After the elections held on February 26, 2015 – the thirty-fifth after the Khomeinist Revolution – with a view to determining the winners of some seats, considering that in February no candidates had reached the minimum share of 25% of valid votes, the second elections for Iran’s Consultative Assembly were held on April 29, 2016. The swinging constituencies were 69.
The elected candidates will be declared effective on May 28, 2016.
The elections were also designed to elect some members of the Assembly of Experts and this is the first time that both elections are held on the same days.
As is well-known, the Legislative Assembly consists of 290 members, minus the five reserved for the Zoroastrians, the Jews, the Assyrians, the Chaldean Christians and the Armenians, with one seat for the Armenians of the South and the other for the Armenians of the North.
14 victorious candidates have not declared their party affiliation, while 30 members were elected in the Tehran Province from the “List of Hope”, run by Mohammed Khatami, and largely considered a “reformist” party.
It is a coalition combining the Council for Coordinating the Reforms Front, the National Trust Party, led by another well-known “reformist” leader, Mehdi Kharroubi, the new Union of Islamic Iran People Party, the Moderation and Development Party, linked to the current leader Hassan Rouhani, as well as the fraction of the Followers of Wilayat led by Ali Larijani, the former Head of Iran’s nuclear negotiations.
The competing political groups were 31.
The Assembly of Experts counts 88 members and there the “reformist” Rafsanjani and Hassan Rouhani secured 59% of the elected members, while previously the “moderates” – just to use a silly Western terminology – were about 20% of the Assembly members.
In the Tehran Province, Rafsanjani’s list won 15 of the 16 seats available.
38% of the members of the Assembly of Experts have changed.
27 candidates were supported by the “Principlists” – namely those we would naively call “conservatives” – while the reformists won 20 seats. As many as 35 candidates were supported by both groupings.
Furthermore, at least 33 of the 68 contested constituencies were won by the pro-Rouhani List of Hope, while the conservatives gained other 21 members of Parliament.
Only 14 seats were won by “independent” candidates, not affiliated to any party- which is, however, a good success.
The problem lies in the fact that the so-called “moderates” could support Rouhani’s economic policy, but not his social and security policies.
The Iranian political scene is ideologically fluid, and not only in recent times, because the definitions of “progressive” or “moderate” have no meaning in the Iranian ideological, religious and parliamentary context.
Undoubtedly the 14 female candidates – all “reformists”, who won in their constituencies – are a novelty.
Certainly two former leaders supporting the “hard line” towards the West, namely Mohammed Yazdi, and the namesake Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, the traditional mentor to Ahmadinedjad, were defeated.
Also Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the Guardian Council, lost.
Hence, basically the alliance between Rouhani and Rafsanjani won.
Probably due to the advanced age of Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader, who is 75, and the prostate surgery he underwent in 2014, this Assembly of Experts could be the one electing the successor to the current Rahbar.
In a series of polls conducted by Western agencies before the elections, voters showed substantial acceptance of the regularity of elections (despite the fact that widespread fraud and vote-rigging were recorded in the Isfahan Province in the first round), as well as general acceptance of candidates.
Only 15% of voters believe that elections in Iran are not “free and fair”.
According to the opinion polls carried out before the second round of elections, 46% of voters believe that Iran has a more lively and vibrant economy, while 52% believe that the economic situation is negative.
Furthermore, the number of optimists is still on the wane.
In the initial round of elections, 33% said they would vote for the “reformists”, 35% for the “Principlists” and 24% for independent candidates.
The most popular leaders are Rafsanjani (69%), Ali Larijani, the current President of the Assembly (63%), Ali Haddad Adel, the leader of the “Principlists” (62%), Ali Motahari, a moderate conservative (55%), and Mohammed Reza Aref, former vice-President with Khatami, a reformist appreciated by 48% of voters.
Voters think that the next Majlis – the Iranian Parliament – shall at first reduce unemployment and, secondly, tackle the problem of rising poverty. Thirdly, it shall enhance Iran’s military security and 3% of Iranians think it shall expand civil liberties.
It is not precisely the image of a people who want an “opening” to the outside world, even though a mere 7% of people supports this issue.
All voters, regardless of their political orientation, are largely confident that the next Majlis will solve Iran’s long-standing problems.
a) Iran has a stable political system, in which the moderate/progressive division is much more nuanced than in the Western world;
b) there is a good trust-based relationship between the ruling class and voters, despite the recent changes following the signing of JCPOA;
c) there exists a division of power between “progressive” and “moderate” leaders which, however, is not reflected immediately on major foreign policy and defense decisions;
d) voters pay great attention to Iran’s image of strength and external projection, which is a value for both electoral constituencies.
Hence, quite the opposite of what Western analysts currently foresee.
About the author:
*Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and Khashoggi Holding’s advisor. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy