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Politics: 2016 Election

The Ministry of Interior and the Central Oversight Committee of the Guardians Council vet candidates for the presidency, parliament, and Assembly of Experts. The pre-approval phase was time for shaping the electoral agenda. The three main political currents, the Principlists, the Reformists and the pro-Rouhani forces were acting prudently in late 2015, being careful to keep their options free. The time for alliance and forming electoral slates would begin only after the qualified candidates are announced.

Four months before the parliamentary election, in November 2015 it was not clear which camp the government would side with: the Reformists or the moderate Principlists. Mohammad-Reza Aref, a senior Reformist figure and a potential candidate for the parliamentary election, had advised the moderate camp to follow the 2013 election pattern and form an alliance with the Reformists to win the upcoming parliamentary election.

Although political parties exist, larger coalitions often more accurately reflect political organization and structure, with the primary divide being between principalists, who advocated for power of the supreme leader, and more progressive-minded reformists.

Conservative Parties/Coalitions

  • United Front of Principalists/Jabhah-e Muttahid-e Usulgarayan
  • Front of Islamic Revolution Stability/Jebhe-ye Paydari

    Principlist Reformist Parties

  • Executives of Construction Party/Hezb-e Motalefeh-ye Eslami
  • Islamic Iran Participation Front/Jebheye Mosharekate Iran-e Eslaami

    The main objective of the moderate Principlist front was to preserve its current status as the majority in the parliament, but with new faces. Larijani knows that a number of his supporters inside the parliament are neither strong figures nor can win the elections in their constituency with certainty. Thus, he was negotiating with popular technocrat figures of the pro-Rouhani camp.

    On 05 December 2015 in Tabriz, in the northwest of Iran, the Friday prayersí leader warned about the parliamentary elections slated for February 2016. Mojtahed Shabestari criticized those who argue against the Guardian Councilís discarding of ineligible candidates, calling their words against the letter of Quran and the Islamic culture. He warned about the formation of a parliament similar to the (Reformist-dominated) Sixth Parliament of 2000-2004.

    Principlism and Reformism are two political mainstreams in Iran, none of which could possibly be disregarded. Energetic political atmosphere and higher national security in the country depend on the dynamic activities of both streams within the framework of law. Ever since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, two political streams of reformists and principlists have been active alongside each other as two irrefutable realities of the country. Periodically, when the government had changed, one or the other stream had been pushed aside.

    The parliamentary elections would take place in February 2016, including elections for the Assembly of Experts. The next Assembly would probably be the one that would choose the person who follows Ayatollah Khamenei in the office. If President Rouhani and his allies gain the upper hand in the parliamentary elections, they would be in a better position to challenge other power centers and push forward their agenda. But if the opposite happens, President Rouhani could become a lame duck for the rest of his term in office and might lose the presidential election.

    The power struggle between the pragmatic camp, which Rafsanjani led, and the ideological camp, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, intensified. The civil liberties crackdown was part of a backlash by hardliners determined to punish Rouhani for Julyís historic nuclear deal and a calculated strategy to undermine the reformist camp led by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani before the elections for Iranís Majlis (parliament) and Assembly of Experts. Confrontation between reformers and hardliners sharpened since Rafsanjani announced he would run for re-election to the Assembly of Experts.

    By the end of 2015, almost 12,000 candidates, including more than 1,100 women, had registered for the country's February parliamentary election - the highest number since the Islamic revolution in 1979. In the last parliamentary vote in 2012, more than 5,000 people were seeking mandates, but more than a third of them were disqualified, leaving around 3,400 candidates on polling day.The total number of hopefuls was expected to drop after the Guardians Council, an unelected judicial body, vets applications. The final list would be published on February 9, and the council was likely to disqualify several thousand candidates on technical and ideological grounds. The qualification requirements for candidates include a Masters degree, as well as identification with the principles of the Islamic Republic.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said 17 January 2016 the Islamic republic had entered a "new chapter" in its history in a speech praising the end of international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear activities. In addition to ending the sanctions, Iran would have access to billions of dollars of assets in foreign banks that have been frozen for years. A number of sanctions on human rights, on terrorism would remain in place that would make it very difficult for companies to navigate. Rouhani said everyone was happy "except Zionists, warmongers fueling discord in the Islamic world, and hardliners in the US."

    About 60 percent of the people who applied to be candidates in Iran's February parliamentary elections were rejected -- with most of those rejections involving reformists. Siamak Rah-Peyk, a spokesman for Iran's Central Elections Supervising Committee, said on 18 January 2016 that only 4,700 of 12,000 registered candidates -- about 40 percent of the applicants -- had been approved. Reformist Hossein Marashi said 3,000 registered reformist candidates around the country had been rejected and only 30 had been approved to run for one of the 290 parliamentary seats.

    Early returns from Iran's parliamentary election indicated the country might usher in a new era with reformists and moderate conservatives creating a friendly venue for President Hassan Rouhani to pursue his political agenda. Reformists won 29 of the 30 parliament seats reserved for Tehran, according to early results released Saturday. Hardliners won the other seat. Preliminary results from Tehran in voting for the Assembly of Experts also showed moderates doing well there.

    Reformists who back extended relationships with western countries won about 85 seats in the parliament, while moderate conservatives got another 73 seats, thus securing a bare 54 percent majority in the 290-seat legislature, in case they form a coalition. Hard-liners, who opposed Iranís nuclear deal with the world powers signed in July 2015, won only 68 seats, which equals 23 percent of the total number of seats in the parliament. Five more seats would go to religious minorities and the remaining 59 seats would be allocated in a runoff, which was expected to be held in April 2016.

    Iranís moderates also won a majority of seats in the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body charged with electing the Supreme Leader of Iran and monitoring his activities as well as with removing him. Moderates got 52 seats in the 88-member assembly securing a 59 percent majority.

    The reformist gains were a boost for the pro-reform camp that was able to reconnect with voters. But it didn't mean that Iran was seeing a reemergence of the reformist movement that rose to prominence with the 1997 election of Mohammad Khatami as president. Many of the reformist camp's most prominent figures were disqualified from these elections.

    Unofficial results from Iranís 29 April 2016 parliamentary run-off election showed that reformist and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won more seats than their conservative rivals, and would likely have control over the legislature. Iranians voted to fill the 68 seats that no candidate won decisively in the first round of voting held in February 2016. During the first election, reformist politicians won a majority of the seats where there was a clear winner. Of the 68 seats up for grabs, the pro-Rouhani List of Hope coalition won 33 while conservative politicians won 21, according to Iranian state media. The rest of the seats were still contested.

    Reformists swept the two rounds of parliamentary elections on February 26 and April 29, winning close to 42 percent of the ballots, followed by Principlists (nearly 29 percent), and independents (22.41 percent). The elected lawmakers are to serve from today through May 27, 2020. The remaining seven percent includes the religious minorities and candidates endorsed by both Reformists and Principlists.

    Iranís moderate conservative parliament leader was re-elected May 29, 2016 despite the gains made by reformists in elections held in February. Ali Larijani was re-elected with the votes of 173 of 281 lawmakers, with several members of the reformist party breaking ranks to vote against the head of their own List of Hope party, Mohammad Reza Aref. Reformists hold 133 of the parliamentís 290 seats, with conservatives holding another 125. The rest of the seats are held by independents and religious minorities who are likely to support Rouhaniís efforts to pass legislation.

    The 11th presidential race will be held in 2017 at the same time as the fourth municipal and rural council elections.

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    Page last modified: 05-06-2016 20:55:09 ZULU