Iran Elections Pits Conservatives Against Conservatives. Who Will Win?

Ed note. I’m pleased to welcome Sevil Mahfoozi to the site. Sevil covered local news for Bloomington, Indiana’s PBS station as an intern while earning her masters degree in journalism. She has taught photojournalism reporting at Indiana University and worked as a reporter for WFHB Bloomington’s local radio station.

On Friday, Iranian voters cast their votes for the first time since the 2009 disputed presidential elections, the results of which will fill 290 parliamentary seats. While the regime promotes the elections as democratic, close to 2000 candidates —  including current members of parliament — have been disqualified by the unelected 12-member Guardian Council. Such arbitrary disqualification of candidates is unmatched in the history of the Islamic state.

The 2009 presidential elections created a rivalry between the reformist party and those in power. Leaders of the Green Movement, former chairman of parliament, Mehdi Karroubi and former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi are under house arrests while notable members of the movement remain in prison. In response to such actions members of the reform party refrained from participating in the elections. Many Iranians who are in favor of reform and do not believe in the legitimacy of the elections have also boycotted the parliamentary elections.

The nuclear program, which dominates so much international coverage of Iran, is not much of an issue in this election. Conservatives aligned with Ahmadinejad are vying for seats against conservatives aligned with the Supreme Leader. Both groups eschew the reformist and less outwardly hostile policies of the green movement.

Iran is in a deep economic crisis mainly due to increased sanctions by the United States and Europe. The regime is struggling to survive a domestic political divide. The results of the elections will not change Iran’s major policies including its controversial nuclear program. Whether Khamenei loyalists or parties favoring Ahmadinejad take over the parliament Tehran is unlikely to change its foreign policies.

Alas, the election isn’t terribly free or fair.