Politicians in Iran are engaged in speculation regarding their odds and opportunities as they look ahead to the country's parliamentary election in March 2024.
Amid their political calculations, all are more or less aware that the true course of events leading to the election depends solely on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's decision. The aging ruler can prevent anyone’s candidacy through a no0n-democratic and opaque screening process that disqualified hundreds in the 2020 and 2021 elections.
A prominent conservative figure in Iran suggested that former President Hassan Rouhani and former Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani are likely to present a joint list of candidates for the upcoming Majles election.
Expediency Council member Mohammad-Reza Bahonar made this statement during an interview with the IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency on Saturday. However, Bahonar added that Larijani is no godfather for any political group in Iran.
According to Tasnim, Bahonar who has been absent from the parliament for eight years, has decided to run in the March election. Bahonar has been a member of the parliament for several terms and was the deputy speaker three times. He leads his own political group, “The Followers of the Imam [Rouhollah Khomeini].”
Bahonar denied that he had been disqualified in the previous round of Majles election, and criticized those who would run in every election until death prevents them from running. He emphasized that in this round of the election, a high turnout is far more important than the election itself.
He mentioned that he had encouraged many reformist figures to participate in the early registration and announce their candidacy. However, he clarified that he contacted only the reformists who do not believe in regime change. Nonetheless Bahonar said that to the best of his knowledge no prominent reformist figures have registered their candidacy, but he mentioned that several moderate conservative figures, such as former Vice President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht have already registered their candidacy at the Interior Ministry.
In the interview, he expressed concerns about discord among conservatives ahead of the election. Bahonar pointed out that the ultraconservative Paydari Party does not believe in an accord among conservatives and will present its own separate list of candidates.
Bahonar also suggested that the Islamic Republic should allow lawful gatherings to prevent protests. He further mentioned that the nationwide protests in 2022 would have occurred anyway, but Mahsa Amini's death in Morality Police custody triggered an early protest. However, he characterized the protests as "riots."
In another development, reformist figure Mohammad Reza Khabbaz said in an interview with Khabar Online that Iran's reformists can send at least 30 reformist figures to the next parliament. However, he said that this will be best feasible if reformists form an alliance with moderate conservatives close to Rouhani and Larijani.
Khabbaz added that reformists are unlikely to secure parliamentary seats if only 8 to 10 percent of voters turn out at the polls in Tehran. Khabbaz, a member of the reformist National Trust Party and a former Governor General of Khorasan Province, has already registered his candidacy with the Interior Ministry.
Addressing rumors of reformists boycotting the elections, Khabbaz stated that five reformist political parties—the National Trust Party, the Executives of Construction Party, Neda-ye Iranian Party, the Labor Party, and the Workers House—have encouraged their members to register their candidacy if they believe they have the potential to serve in the next parliament. However, 25 other reformist parties have announced that they will not field any candidates in the upcoming election.
Khabbaz noted that there are currently four or five reformist members in the parliament, including Masoud Pezeshkian, a lawmaker from Tabriz.