Iranians casting their votes at ballot boxes during the parliamentary elections in the city of Isfahan

Iran's Hardliners Wish To Change Election Law To Bar 'Moderates'

Saturday, 04/08/2023

Hardliner lawmakers dominating Iran’s parliament amid multiple crises are looking for ways to ensure their re-election, including tampering with electoral law.

The semi-official news agency ISNA reported April 6 that a parliamentary committee has suggested that no one who has already served as a lawmaker for three rounds in the parliament (Majles) should be allowed to run in the next parliamentary election in March 2024. The proposal is not to bar those who have served consecutive terms, but anyone who has served three terms.

Many of the ultra-conservatives in the current Majles are first term lawmakers, while there are many prominent and more moderate politicians who can challenge them next year.

Social media users in Iran noted that that the motion is a way of barring individuals such as former President Hassan Rouhani and former Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani from running for the next round of the parliament.

Former President Hassan Rouhani (left) and former Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani

This is presumably meant to save the embarrassment of disqualifying high-profile candidates ahead of the upcoming election, social media activists said.

In the 2020, the Guardian Council packed with loyalists of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, disqualified hundreds of ‘reformists’, allowing the hardliners to breeze through in a low-turnout election. But the mass rejections became a serious embarrassment for the regime and after months of protests, Khamenei would prefer to bar unwanted politicians in a less direct manner.

According to ISNA, the suggestion has been made by the internal affairs committee of the Majles as part of the proposed amendment to the election law. However, the deputy speaker should review the suggestion to make sure it does not contradict the current laws before sending it for debate in an open session.

If the suggestion is discussed and approved by the Majles, then the constitutional watchdog Guardian Council has two weeks to accept or reject it. However, it is a known fact in Iran that the council operates based on Khamenei's preferences rather than the law.

Reformist daily Shargh wrote on the same date that others including former Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri and former lawmaker Ali Motahari will also be barred from running for the next Majles if the suggestion is approved.

According to Shargh, if accepted, the move will provide a stronger guarantee for the current ultraconservative "young revolutionary" lawmakers' re-election. In a similar move, the ultraconservatives raised the minimum age for presidential candidacy so that former IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi would not be able to run for President in 2021.

Former IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi

Shargh's columnist Vahideh Karimi wrote that as far as the young lawmakers of the current Majles are concerned, the ratification of this suggestion is a fateful event for them. They know that individuals such as Ali Larijani or Motahari can quickly form a strong alliance once they are elected, and this will make it hard for the remaining ultraconservatives at the Majles to exercise influence.

The move will also bar some of the conservative members of the parliament such as Mostafa Mirsalim from running in 2024 but the ultraconservatives cannot be less concerned as Mirsalim and other elderly and experienced traditional conservatives are less popular than the moderates who might wish to make a comeback.

In the meantime, the poor performance of the current parliament has left very little hope for most current lawmakers' re-election. As a Khabar Online report noted earlier, hardliners in Majles have done little in three years, except trying to pass laws to restrict freedoms.

Meanwhile, according to a Tasnim news agency report, Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has called for boosting the people's trust in the government to ensure a higher turnout in the next election. Last time, less than 20 percent of potential voters took part in Tehran and around 40 percent in small towns and villages. "Without this trust, everyone will lose, and the people will trust us only if we share decision-making with them," said Ghalibaf.

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