Iran is about to hold elections. These elections will have very limited impact on the future of the country, due to the flawed democracy and premeditated blocking of options in Iran.
In less than 10 days, on February 26, Iranians will vote in parliamentary elections. There are some who wish to attribute significance, due to the power of determination if Iran’s Majlis continues to be dominated by hardline elements (as it has been since 2012, when the elections were boycotted by reformists in the wake of the arrest of Green Movement leaders) – or by reformists and moderates. Yet, this is misleading.
In the past, we have called into question the distinction between Iran’s moderates and hardliners, as ultimately they share the same aims. In addition, the entire parliament is devoid of real power because all laws have to be approved by the powerful Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader himself, both of which have veto power.
The second election process is for the Assembly of Experts. Some again would like to read significance in these elections due to the fact that it, in turn, is tasked, in its eight-year term, with choosing the country’s Supreme Leader, should the current one die (a possibility Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has acknowledged).
But here again the significance of the election process has been neutralized in advance – anyone hoping to run is subjected to a “punishing” vetting process through which many candidates (particularly reformist ones) whose “constitutional” record or religious loyalties are suspect are culled from the race. Thus, despite some optimistic forecasts that the moderates could be “poised to do well” in this year’s elections, many of them aren’t even allowed to run. Take Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was removed from the race after the Guardian Council decreed he was “not sufficiently learned in Islamic jurisprudence” – although, as per a recent Economist editorial cleverly titled “You Vote, But We Choose,” it was his ties to reformist politicians which were likely the real reason.
Some have already questioned Iran’s “democracy”. In Vox they determined that “Iran is not a democracy, but rather an autocracy with democratic elements”. In Quora, Mark Binfield in relating to the fundamental question Is Iran a democracy states the obvious: “Iranian elections are not to be considered free and fair by western standards because a significant amount of candidates are eliminated from consideration through a vetting process run by the Guardian Council”.