Iran’s Parliamentary Election, a Fiasco. What is Next for Iran?
Iran’s parliamentary election was held on February 21st. The ballot boxes were empty. For Iranians, the election legitimized the Ayatollahs’ unpopular policies. In fact, the election turnout was the lowest since 1979, only 42% of Iranians voted, according to official government statistics. The supreme leader blamed the low turnout on western propaganda about the coronavirus.
However, prior to the parliamentary election, citizens recorded videos of themselves expressing their intention to boycott the election. They didn’t state foreign influence as a reason for boycotting the election. Disenchantment with the current regime caused many Iranians not to vote.
The Guardian Council handpicks candidates for local and national elections to ensure that candidates do not pose a threat to the regime. For this reason, liberal candidates are often disqualified. Further, the regime’s shutdown of the Internet last November, the crackdown on dissent, and the downing of Flight 752 led to considerable discontent. Moreover, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus and the regime’s incapability to mitigate its effects further delegitimized the government.
The low turnout wasn’t a surprise and will lead to a more conservative parliament.
In 1998, the presidential candidate, Mohammad Khatami, united Iranians of all walks of life under the banner of reform. The high turnout was due to Iranians genuinely believing that a candidate could bring significant reforms. The high voter turnout back then was due to thirty years of severe socio-political suppression by the regime, Iranians lacking access to cellphones, social media, and barely any home satellites. For them, voting was the only means for change. However, as Khatami was near the end of his second term, he blamed the lack of reform on the limits of presidential authority, stating, “In Iran, President is only in charge of the logistics.”
Given the current discontentment with the regime, the next president of Iran will struggle to gain popular support. Despite decades of promises of reform and development by presidential candidates, Iran has been further isolated and marred by economic instability.
There was speculation that Qassem Soleimani could be Iran’s next president, portraying him as a hero for defending Iran’s borders. Soleimani himself denied such candidacy rumors. With Soleimani gone, and the IRGC and many politicians sanctioned by the U.S., Khamenei’s apparatus has no choice but to introduce a candidate after the U.S. election in November. Khamenei will be keen to put up someone even more ruthless.
Iran’s supreme leader has no vision for prosperity. His main goal is to safeguard the regime. Towards this end, he has strengthened the IRGC and religious groups. Without addressing the grievances of its citizens, the current system will continue to fail to gain popular support.
Instead, civil disobedience, street riots, and union protests will continue.
Change will come to Iran and the international community should support the wishes of the Iranian people.