Sunday, March 9, 2008

Iran’s Pasteurized Elections

The 14 March parliamentary elections in Iran have indeed been processed in such a way as to destroy “harmful” elements, aka reformist and moderate candidates.

  • The conservative-dominated Executive Committees of the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council have disqualified the majority of reformist and moderate candidates.
  • After the massive disqualifications, reformist and moderate candidates are now limited to contest less than half of the 290 seats in Majlis.
  • This week’s severe restrictions over elections campaign advertising will further dim the prospects of the reformists and moderates who do not enjoy the backing of government's broadcasting stations.

The worsening economy and the absolute inability of Ahmadinejad’s administration to reign in the growing inflation and to boost the standards of living for the middle and lower classes favors the reformists and their fewer candidates. Ahmadinejad’s performance, or lack of, has also created dissatisfaction and squabbling among the conservatives themselves.

  • The conservatives could not endorse a unified list of candidates either in Tehran or in provinces.
  • The split among the conservatives will increase the chances for those reformist and moderate candidates who have been endorsed by both major reformist parties: The Participation Front and the National Trust Party.
  • The elections results for the seats that are allowed to be contested by the candidates of unified reform list would show the relative strength of the reformist vs. conservative camps in today’s Iran.
  • The key to victory for the reformists in the contested seats will be the voters’ turnout. If the turnout will be at or exceeds 60%, the reformist will pick up seats. If the people would not even bother to vote in this caricature of an election, then the conservatives would sweep the 8th Majlis.

The upcoming parliamentary contest in Iran seems to have all the characteristics of a fabricated exercise intended to prove the existence of free elections in the country. But even this limited exercise might come back and haunt the government. The loss of government’s legitimacy in massive disqualification process as well as the rift among the conservatives will add to the mounting problems facing Ahmadinejad’s administration.


mikel OM said...

I would like to know the point of view of Mehdi Kerubi about the elections. Is he contesting? or does he have a political party? Apart from this, do you see the possibility of a strong fight between Ahmadineyad and Lariyani supporters? (United front versus Inclusive front)

Nader Uskowi said...

Thanks, OM.

Karubi’s party, the National Trust Party, is actively participating in the elections. Although half their candidates were disqualified, they are expected to do very well in the contested seats. Karubi himself is not a candidate.

The NTP is fielding its own list with many candidates in common with the list put forward by the Reformist Coalition. Together, the two lists contain almost all reformist/moderate candidates running.

On conservative side, the differences are growing and I do expect a major clash between Larijani and Ahmadinejad and their supporters. Larijani did not run from Tehran to avoid splitting the conservative list in Tehran and increasing chances for the reformists, instead he’ll be running from Qum. The main issue for conservative critics of Ahmadinejad is his lack of leadership and inability in addressing the growing economic problems in the country. They consider the current situation unsustainable.

- Nader