Why The 2016 Iranian Elections Were a Resounding Victory for Reformists

Why The 2016 Iranian Elections Were a Resounding Victory for Reformists February 29, 2016


The next Iranian Parliament and the Assembly of Experts will not have a majority of reformists, but nevertheless, the results prove a resounding victory for the reformist movement and Rouhani’s administration. Because while reformist candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council to such a great extent that they had no chance to form a majority, the lists they supported won decisively. We need some context here.

Four years ago, parliamentary elections were held in Iran. It was in the midst of the protests of the Green Movement protests, and most people boycotted them, and the regime was overly angry at the reformists, therefore almost no reformist candidate was qualified. The result was a parliament with only five reformist MPs, a minority of moderate conservatives, and power evenly divided between conservatives and extremists. This was certainly the worst parliament in our history – they stood against Rouhani’s administration in every turn (Rouhani received more warnings and questions in two years than all other presidents in history combined), and passed draconian authoritarian laws one after another.

This victory can be understood in the context of the previous parliament. The fact is simple: More than 80% of this parliament failed to be reelected. 

The next parliament will not have a majority. It will have four strong minorities. There will be reformists, moderate conservatives, conservatives, and independent people. But there will be no extremists. They were completely swept out of the parliament.

Parliamentary elections are political mainly in Tehran. The reformist list now has won 30 out of 30 seats in Tehran for the Parliament. In big cities the reformist list also won. these lists are comprised of reformists and moderate conservatives.

In small cities and villages people who identify neither with reformists nor with conservatives and they won there. These are people with strong local clout but unknown outside their places. We cannot know how they will act in Parliament, but we know they are usually susceptible to agreeing with whoever’s in charge.

The results are much more mixed in the Election of the Assembly of Experts. The vast majority of the Assembly of Experts will remain conservatives, because there was basically no reformist candidate allowed.

However, due to the urging of the previous reformist president Mohammad Khatami, people did not boycott this, and even this extremely noncompetitive election proved a victory for reformists.

First of all, the top reformist candidate, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, received more votes than any other candidate.

Secondly, in the elections the reformists defined their goal as keeping three extremist candidates out. Two of those extremist candidates lost their seats. Most importantly, Mohammad Yazdi, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts (an extremist conservative) didn’t make it.

No one can look at these results and not conclude that in a fairer election reformists would have won an absolute majority. These elections sent clear messages.

One important factor shaping the elections was the nuclear deal. The basis of the alliance between reformists and moderate conservatives was the nuclear deal – the reformist lists were comprised of both reformists and moderate conservatives, but only people who had supported the nuclear deal. This was a guiding signal for people how to vote. And people’s main concern was to make sure the Parliament would not attempt to disrupt the deal in the future. If we look at the results in terms of the nuclear deal, the supporters of the deal won an absolute majority.

Now, what does this mean for the future of Iran? Much is uncertain at this point. We need to see who becomes the next Chairman. But one thing is for certain: It means less obstructionalism against Rouhani. It means less horrible medieval-level laws.

Will this be a good progressive Parliament? I don’t know. Will it be an end to the current disaster? Yes, definitely. No matter what happens, it’s a step forward, and good news. And I’m happy to have voted.

Image credit: Fararu. These pictures can be reproduced when citing the source.

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