The portrait of an election in Iran
The Iranian regime must preserve the fiction of democracy and political participation to keep its revolution alive.
Iranian election officials at the ballot. Photo: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl
Iran’s 9th parliamentary election, held on Friday, March 2, was described by the
country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the most sensitive vote in
the history of the Islamic Republic.
The country’s first major vote since
the controversial 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was held
while most of the democratic opposition’s prominent figures, including Mir
Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, were in prison or under house arrest. As a
result, the race was open only to the handpicked candidates of the regime’s two
conservative camps, one led by Ahmadinejad and another by Khamenei.
Islamic regime’s state television broadcast rolling coverage of the polling
stations on Friday, showing hundreds queuing up across the country to cast their
ballots. But all foreign journalists were “bused” by authorities to handpicked
polling stations, and the regime imposed harsh restrictions on journalists, not
only while reporting but also when writing.
Then there’s the fact that,
fearing a cut in direct subsidies if they didn’t comply, many poor Iranian
families were forced to vote by a message sent nationwide by the authorities via
A near-final result released by the Interior Ministry on Sunday
evening showed the conservative camp loyal to Khamenei had taken over 75 percent
of the 290 seats in parliamentary elections in Tehran, provincial towns and
countryside. The ministry reportedly announced that the exact makeup of the new
parliament would be known in April following runoff elections for more than 30
seats. The authorities also announced that voter turnout was over 64%, higher
than for the 2008 parliamentary vote at 57%.
With the result of Friday’s
vote, the political marriage between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei was officially
dissolved. Ahmadinejad will likely face a more hostile parliament in his
remaining two years in office, and Khamenei will likely face more stubborn
However, whatever the effect of Khamenei’s victory over
Ahmadinejad on domestic Iranian politics, it is not expected to have an impact
on foreign policy issues, such as the nuclear stand-off with the
The regime’s disregard for the human rights and democratic
aspirations of Iranians will also remain unchanged.
More than at any time
in its history, the Islamic regime is facing a legitimacy crisis, both at home
and abroad. Whatever the result of future elections, most of the 48 million
eligible Iranian voters have decided to boycott any kind of vote under the
Islamic Republic. As a result, elections of any kind are the regime’s Achilles’
The writer is an Iranian journalist based in Central Asia.