By Nader Uskowi
The elections for the Ninth Majlis will be held tomorrow across Iran. I ran as one of the youngest candidates from Tehran in the First Majlis. That was March 1980! The elections then were not a choice between conservative and ultraconservative candidates. They included a wide range of candidates from right to left. I finished first among the leftist candidates, with more votes than Toudeh’s Kianouri. But it was the right in a “Grand Coalition” between the Islamic Republic Party let by Ali Khamenei and the Society of Combatant Clerics led by the late Mehdi Shahabadi that carried the day and won the majority in the First Majlis. Ayatollah Shahabadi was a friend. We met and befriended at SAVAK’s notorious Komiteh Prison during the last months of the shah’s government, and remained friends until he lost his life in a terrorist attack. That was the atmosphere then.
32 years later, the Society of Combatant Clerics, this time led by Mahdavi Kani, is the leading force in the United Principlist Front, expected to keep its majority in the Ninth Majlis. But this time their main opponents are the like-minded conservatives, especially the ultraconservatives led by Mesbah Yazdi’s Resistance Front. No Left, Center, reformist or any form of opposition groups or coalitions were allowed to run. This is the atmosphere now.
I guess 32 years of uninterrupted rule by any group, led by a leader for life, creates such atmosphere. The opposition candidates instead of running in the elections are either inside the notorious Evin Prison or not allowed to run. The Ayatollah Shahabadi I knew, if he was with us today, would have cringed at the conditions surrounding the elections for the Ninth Majlis and their eerie similarities to the shah’s time which he spent so many years in prison trying to change it.