What are the stakes of the forthcoming Iranian parliamentary elections?
The February 2020 parliamentary elections în Iran could represent the succesive recognition that the country’s attempt to get closer to the West has failed
This article was published on 21 January 2020 at the site ”The Barricade”.
The murder of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and the taking down of the ucrainean airplane over Tehran in the night, when Iran fired against American military bases in Iraq, happened a little bit more than a month before the parliamentary elections in the Islamic Republic. That is why they will ceratinly influence the future political map of the country. On 21 February 2020 Iranians will vote for Islamic Consultative Assembly, which has prerogatives mostly with regard to the internal policy and the economy. Also, the members of the Assembly of Experts, which has the right to dismiss and appoint the supreme leader, will be partially renewed.
In January the Guardians’ Council – the institution, which approves the candidates, who have the right to participate in the parliamentary elecitons, as usual rejected the right to compete to a number of them – both reformers and fundamentalists (conservatives). However the reformists and the men around the president Hassan Rouhani, a representative of moderateness, have remained unhappier. Rouhani has already reacted against the decisions of the Guardians’ Council, saying that Iranians have need for “diversity” in their political choice. At a governmental meeting on 15 January 2020 Rouhani has called that “all the parties and groups” have the permission to participate in the elections, because the country “cannot be governed by one political wing alone“.
At all the elections the Guardians’ Council rejects participation to many of the candidates, because of different reasons. Now its representatives said that 90% of the candidates have been rejected on “non-political grounds”. But it is notable that tens of deputies from the present parliament will not have the right to participate in the election as candidates. People such as the famous member of the parliament Ali Motahari – the son of one of the ideologues of the Islamic Revolution – Morteza Motahari, are not allowed to be candidates.
Rouhani is connected with the pro-western line in the Iranian politics. He was chosed as the president in 2013 with the promise to be the curer for the wounds in internal and external plan, opened by the rule of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is known for his messianic vision for the world affairs and for the suppression of the most massive protests after the Islamic Revolution, which took on the streets in 2009 million in demonstrations, because of doubts for vote rigging. The first cabinet of Rouhani had more ministers with doctorates from the USA than the American government of Barrack Obama at the same time.
The greatest achievement of Rouhani’s government was the signing of the nuclear agreement with the group 5+1 (the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) in 2015. Rouhani hoped that as a result of this agreement Iran will integrate in the world economy, will start exporting more oil, will receive an influx of foreign investment and will overcome or lessen its social and economic problems. The return of the sanctions, related with the coming in power of Donald Trump, was combined with the American renouncement of the nuclear agreement. Iran could no longer use the benefits of this agreement and started step by step to renounce on some its clauses. The murder of Soleimani in the beginning of 2020 was followed by a an Iranian rejection to respect the nuclear agreement’s provisions with regard to the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges. After the leading European countries threatened to bring the case of Iranian break of the nuclear agreement provisions to the Security Council of the UN, Teheran threatened in return to leave the Nuclear Non-Profileration Agreement as a countermeasure.
Seven years after Rouhani came to power it looks like Iran is again close to the situation, in which it was in the times of coming of the cleric, who is also a technocrat. Standing one step away from the rejection of the nuclear agreement, the Iranian government has almost recognised that its strategy of the last years for opening to the West has failed. The murder of Soleimani will probably strengthen and mobilise another current of the Iranian politics, which is related to the Revolutionary Guard. While Rouhani pursued world policy and tried to make Iran a partner of Western powers, the Revolutionary Guard put an accent on the regional politics in the Middle East. In this politics Iran is the center of “the axis of resistance” against “the arrogant part” of the West.
In this context the stakes of the Iranian parliamentary elections should be searched for. Whether Iran is going to have another strengthening of the military and a new period of increased internal and external contradictions, as it was in the times of Ahmadinejad? Isn’t the world now more different that it was eight years ago, when Russia and China were weaker, than they are today? What future will the group of tehnocrats around Rouhani have and what will be the new balance in the Iranian politics?
Maybe in the conditions of maximum pressure against it the Iranian state bets again for unification of the political elite around one line and for unloading of the unnecesary in this moment ideological and political weight in the tops. After all, things may be not so predictable, because the taking down of the Ukrainian airplane is a big black point for the Revolutionary Guard. Thousands have protested in Tehran against “the involuntary mistake” of the army, which is loyal to islam. That is how a part of the intrigue at the forthcoming elections is whether the voter turnour will be high, which will give legitiacy to the new parliament or whether it will be low and the unhappiness in Iran against the system will continue. In its weekly magazine “Sobh-e Sadegh” the Revolutionary Guard has already declared that only a high voter turnout will allow the country prevail against the politics of maximal pressure, led by Donald Trump.
It matters whether in November 2020 in the USA Donald Trump will be chosen for a new four year’s mandate. Iran manages to reset its political balances in accordance with the blowing winds in the Middle East and the world. Let’s don’t forget that Soleimani’s murder took place soon after the Russian, the Chinese and the Iranian navy made for the first time joint exercises. At the end of February 2020 we will have a clear sign how the Iranian state and society will answer the present events in the region.
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