An empty voting station in Iran's 2021 presidential elections

Iran Politicians Say New Law Unlikely To Boost Low Voter Turnout

Saturday, 06/03/2023

Some Iranian politicians are concerned that ultraconservatives who hold the majority in parliament might change the electoral law to serve their own interests.

Critics ae mainly concerned about the lack of transparency about an amendment the current law kept under wraps. However, lawmakers with access to the text of the bill charge that the amendment will restrict reformists, moderates and independent candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections planned for March 2024.

A May 31 report published by Khabar Online website quoted MP Abdollah Izadpanah as having said that the new law will give the Guardian Council a free hand to disqualify non-conservative candidates.

The Islamic Republic has always banned non-insiders from running in elections but since 2020, the Guardian Council with the constitutional power to review candidates, has banned even former senior officials from running for parliament and the presidency. The council’s heavy-handed intervention in early 2020, handed the majority in the legislature to hardliners.

Izadpanah confirmed that based on the new law the Guardian Council may even disqualify candidates after they win an election. On the other hand, he said that the new bill introduces the concept of proportional elections for Tehran.

Member of Iranian parliament, Abdollah Izadpanah

While currently the winning party list takes all the 30 parliamentary seats in the capital, the new law would divide the seats according to the percentage of votes each group receives. So, instead of the winner taking all, it takes as many seats as the percentage of votes it wins.

Some critics believe that this might even benefit candidates other than the conservatives. However, this will not make a big difference if all of the candidates and lists come from the same hardliner political faction, as it was the case in the previous election in 2020.

Ahmad Alirezabeigi, the lawmaker from Tabriz, also agreed that trying to restrict the voters' choice to ultraconservative candidates is the biggest shortcoming of this bill.

Another problem is that those with a pending legal case at the Judiciary may not be allowed to run for the parliament according to the bill. This opens the door to fabricating cases against some candidates, or some pending cases may be left inconclusive at the courts only to deprive some individuals from the right to run for the Majles.

Iran Judiciary, which controls both prosecutors and courts is a close ally of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s hardliner loyalists.

Ahmad Alirezabeigi, representing Tabriz in the Iranian parliament

Alirezabeiogi also disagreed with the part of the draft bill that allows the conservative-dominated Guardian Council to disqualify candidates who have won the election. Factional interests may be involved in such decisions, some members of the parliament have charged. Others say this will make voting and elections meaningless as a few members of the Guardian Council can effectively change elections result.

Reformist political activist Gholamali Rajaei charged in an interview with Nameh News website that some state officials and politicians are after a low-turnout election to ensure a victory by the ultraconservatives. These officials and politicians believe that a few percent of the total number of eligible voters in Iran are enough for the election and that there is no need for a majority of eligible voters to take part.

However, according to Nameh News website in Tehran, the main problem is whether Iranians can be persuaded to go to the ballot boxes again after two engineered elections in 2020 and 2021.

Rajaei also argued that a public deeply unhappy about the economic mess might boycott an election it has no faith in.

Rajaei also suggested that releasing political prisoners will also encourage political participation.

An earlier report by Iran International indicated that none of the country's political factions can do anything to ensure a high turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections, and if the people do not feel it is a free election, they will not take part.

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