Moderates Take Numerous Seats in Iranian Elections

Deputy Comment Editor, , evaluates Iran’s Election Results

President Hassan Rouhani has support from the masses following the Iran Elections. Image: World Economic Forum

President Hassan Rouhani has support from the masses following the Iran Elections. Image: World Economic Forum

The dust is beginning to settle following the Iranian elections, and it looks like the current President, Hassan Rouhani, has seen a massive show of support for his moves of reconciliation with the Western powers.

The seats being fought over were those of the Iranian Majlis, the elected chamber of the legislative system of Iran. Within it, there are 290 seats, of which 5 are reserved for religious minorities within the country. With a voting age of 18, Iran theoretically has 54.9 million registered voters, of whom 62 per cent turned out to vote according to government statistics. Due to the quirks of the Iranian electoral system, there are a mixture of single and multiple candidate districts, and in order to be elected, a candidate must receive 1/3rd of the votes cast, or receive the highest vote share if multiple candidates achieve this. In this case it was not achieved in 59 seats so a further election will be held in April, prior to the candidates officially taking office on May 28th. Each of those elected to the Majlis receives a four year term.

The election appears to be a show of popular support for Rouhani, a perceived moderate

The election appears to be a show of popular support for Rouhani, a perceived moderate.This is because whilst the number of conservatives who have been elected remains high, many of those amongst the conservatives who opposed the current nuclear arms deal with the United States have lost their seats. For the first time in the Majlis, those in favour of the nuclear deal have a majority, holding 158 seats, a combination of reformists and conservatives. Those conservatives who opposed the nuclear deal have dropped from well over 100 seats to a mere 68; whilst not as total a destruction as was suffered by the Liberal Democrats here last May, it is still a clear sign that popular support for conservatism is waning.

It must be noted as well that this success came despite over 5,200 candidates, mainly reformists and moderates, being rejected by the Guardian Council, the body that ensures all candidates are allowed to run for office, as well as providing oversight during the elections themselves.

As well as the Majlis, elections were also being held for the Assembly of Experts, a body of 88 who nominate the Supreme Leader when the post is vacated. With the current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini at a relatively advanced age of 76 years, as well as a major prostate operation in 2014, this iteration of the Assembly could be the one choosing the next Supreme Leader, especially as election to the Assembly grants the office for a full 8 years. With a perceived victory for moderates in the Assembly as well, there is a strong chance that Iran is moving further out of the shadows.

With a perceived victory for moderates in the Assembly as well, there is a strong chance that Iran is moving further out of the shadows.

The results of these elections show that the Iranian public have had enough of being an international pariah and a target for economic sanctions. However, a potentially overlooked aspect of the election is that this also signals at least a degree of support for Iranian military action abroad, particularly in Syria and Iraq. This shows that the populace support the breaking off of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia late last year. If this is the case, then whilst Iran may be making progress in the international community and is no longer public enemy number one, it needs to act with care lest it see further economic sanctions from the West

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