Election campaigning in Iran. February 2024

Iranians Not Convinced About Legitimacy of New Parliament

Sunday, 05/19/2024

A reformist politician in Tehran has harshly criticized the electoral system in the Islamic Republic, which is based on a biased vetting of the candidates favoring hardliner politicians.

Saeed Shariati told Etemad Online website that "Even some of the hardliners can no longer call this political purge an election." He said "the government is playing with people's minds when it asks them to choose between two likeminded hardline conservatives."

Prior to the March 1 parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, disqualified hundreds of candidates, paving the way for loyalist hardliners to gain a strong majority in the Majles. This partly contributed to the lowest turnout in the history of the Islamic political system.

The website noted that while the government considers the election over, the controversy surrounding it will persist due to unresolved issues. One of the most critical issues is the nature of the Iranian government, which is supposed to be a "Republic."

The website argued that the Iranian political system will no longer even resemble a republic with the disqualification of all “reformists, moderates, and independent candidates.”

Etemad Online quoted Shariati, who stated that election turnout in Iran has been consistently declining, even among conservative voters. In other words, the election system has failed to convince even the regime's religious-minded hardline conservative supporters.

Iranian politician and commentator Saeed Shariati

"While one of the most significant [initial] differences between the Islamic Republic and the previous regime was that political groups were able to win positions of power in a competitive situation, during the past 32 years, the arbitrary selection of all candidates by the Guardian Council has changed the reality and eliminated the element of competitiveness," Shariati said.

He quoted former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who said that the high turnout in the 1997 Iranian presidential election influenced the United States' decision not to attack Iran between 2001 and 2003, following the September 11 terror strikes. At the time, President George Bush called Iran part of an “axis of evil.”

Shariati added that biased and rigged elections since 2009 have rendered elections in Iran meaningless, as radical conservatives have taken over the government.

Meanwhile, Jomhouri Eslami newspaper wrote: " The government failed to take seriously the drop in turnout in the 2020 Majles election and continued the same biased vetting of candidates, barring reformists and moderates from running. As a result, the situation worsened in the 2024 parliamentary elections."

The conservative daily pointed out that “it is a catastrophe when someone who has entered the new parliament by winning only 5 percent of the vote in Tehran, now has a chance to become the Speaker of the Majles and lead the legislative power."

The daily added that a parliament elected by the minimum number of votes is neither desirable nor legitimate and cannot make key decisions.

Meanwhile, the government and ruling ultraconservatives are either in denial about the declining election turnouts or attempting to justify them.

Ultraconservative political activist Sadeq Koushki has done both. He blamed the state television for the low turnout, saying that the state TV, which has exclusive broadcasting rights in Iran failed to properly inform the nation about the elections.

Meanwhile, he stated that the low turnout in March was "natural" and accused critics of waging a psychological war by highlighting it. He added, "There is no reason for the government to be concerned about the situation."

The new parliament is set to open in less than two weeks, but complacent statements like the one made by Koushki are unlikely to convince the Iranian people that the parliament represents the majority of them.

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