Iran gears up for crucial 2024 elections


As Iran faces internal political upheaval, the impending elections on March 1, 2024, are poised to shape the composition of the 12th term parliament and the Council of Experts responsible for appointing the Supreme Religious Leader. These elections follow the widespread protests in 2022 triggered by the killing of activist Mahsa Amini. Observers cautiously hope for a more democratic atmosphere despite concerns about the electoral process.

The registration process, initially promoted as a positive move for transparency, has raised suspicions of creating a mere facade of democracy. While a reported 48,000 people initially confirmed their candidacy online, the Council of Guardians rejected thousands of applicants not aligned with the regime’s “values and principles”. Critics, especially from the reformist camp, point to amendments in the Election Code, enabling stricter disqualification of opposition candidates.

The regime’s focus is on achieving a high turnout, given the record-low 42 percent turnout in the 2020 parliamentary elections. Rising public distrust, exacerbated by socio-economic challenges and increased persecution of dissidents, poses a legitimacy threat. The government aims to bolster public trust through increased participation.

Conservative-fundamentalist political groups, inspired by Supreme Religious Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei, are actively mobilizing for the elections. The Paydari party, dominant in parliament and government, leads the conservative wing. However, internal divisions among conservatives raise questions about potential coalition formation.

On the opposition front, notable reformist figures like ex-president Mohammad Hatami and Mehdi Karroubi lean towards boycotting, contributing to growing pessimism. The absence of reformist candidates among those registered hints at conservative dominance, fueling suspicions of pre-election manipulation.

Accusations, notably from conservative-leaning outlets like Kayhan newspaper, claim opposition manipulation and secret coalition discussions among reformists. The role of key figures like former president Hassan Rouhani, Ali Larijani, and the Construction Party adds complexity to the political landscape.

The upcoming elections present a critical juncture for Iran’s theocratic authority. Supreme Leader Khamenei, facing health concerns, seeks to ensure a successor from the ultra-conservative camp. Ethnic tensions and ideological crises intensify, forcing Khamenei to navigate between strengthening social support and avoiding further ideological crises.

Influential figures in the ultra-conservative camp encourage participation, favoring a scenario where reformers control the parliament. However, reformists’ skepticism about transparency and some boycotting suggest they may remain a minority. Centrist-moderate parties might play a role, but internal disagreements within this camp complicate the landscape. The elections, therefore, become a crucial test for Iran’s political future.


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