The real story behind the upcoming elections in Iran on Friday is that they are not so important.
The process to choose the country’s parliament, or Majlis, and Assembly of Experts that would choose the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already been rigged by the ruling hard-liners who have vetted out undesirable candidates, leaving Khamenei approved candidates competing against each other.
The question many will ask is if protests should be expected following the elections like in 2009. Iran is taking no chances.
Iran’s deputy police chief Eskandar Momeni said on Tuesday that 250,000 police would be deployed to ensure security, Tasnim News Agency reported.
However, with pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani already running the government, the pushback by the reformists backed by the majority of the public can be expected to be limited, with a better chance for unrest probably coming after the presidential election next year.
But the first national elections since the nuclear deal with world powers may reveal some aspects of public opinion.
“Ever since the nuclear deal secured the economic survival of the state, Khamenei has engaged in an energetic effort to secure the survival of the revolution,” Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert, told The Jerusalem Post.
With the international sanctions regime removed, the supreme leader “no longer needs President Hassan Rouhani and the technocratic elites of the Islamic Republic,” said Alfoneh, adding that this is why most Rouhani supporters were disqualified in the run up to the parliamentary election.
“The next parliament is likely to be dominated by veterans or supporters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which safeguards the regime,” he asserted.
Regarding the election to the Assembly of Experts, Alfoneh draws a similar conclusion, noting that this body has the formal powers to appoint Khamenei’s successor as the Leader of the Revolution. “With the exception of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, almost all centrist candidates were eliminated,” he added.
Raz Zimmt, a researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Alliance Center for Iranian Studies and the Forum for Regional Thinking, told the Post the most important aspect of the upcoming elections is that it is a litmus test for the future of Rouhani’s government and its ability to promote its agenda.
“The election for Iran’s Majlis is generally not so important,” he said, but it could provide a significant indication to the current political balance of power in Iran.
The main battle underway is between those that support Rouhani’s government and hard-liners that oppose it, he added.
In an article published on Tuesday for the Forum for Regional Thinking, Zimmt noted that the Majlis has no impact on determining the country’s foreign policy though it does have some significance such as the ability to approve state budgets and impeach ministers and prevent appointments.
In addition, Iran’s parliament serves as a political arena where ideological clashes take place, he wrote.