Iran holds its first elections after recent anti-regime protests and awaits abstentions

Iran’s first parliamentary elections and assembly of experts are taking place today after the massive protests from autumn 2022 – triggered by the death of the young Mahsa Amini at the hands of the moral police because he did not wear the Islamic veil properly – called for the overthrow of the Ayatollah regime and the establishment of a democratic system.

With no possibility of political change – forecasts suggest the conservatives will renew their parliamentary majority four years after electing a chamber dominated by hardliners – the big question for Iranian authorities is whether Social dissatisfaction leads to low participation in the double election date.

The Guardian Council, the body that reviews laws passed by parliament and vetoes candidates for elections – and whose twelve members are appointed directly by the supreme leader of the revolution – has already completed its task of cracking down on the reformists and politicians approved 15,200 out of 49,000 candidates who registered for the parliamentary elections. The regime is already congratulating itself on the high number of candidates – twice as many as in 2020 – as a sign of popular support for the system (only 12% are women).

But the forecasts indicate that the deterioration of the regime’s image due to the economic crisis – which has been shaking the pockets of citizens for several years and a third of the population lives in extreme poverty -, the intensified repression against any dissenting policies and the insecurity will be the Stopping Iranians from voting. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has appealed in recent hours to the vote to “save the country.” The commander, for his part, of the Revolutionary Guard Hosein SalamHe made it clearer that voting meant “a slap in the mouth to rivals.”

The more than 61 million citizens called to the polls today after just a week of election campaigning will have to decide the identity of the holders of the 290 seats of Parliament or the Islamic Consultative Assembly, a chamber with limited powers in Turkey’s theocracy, mullahs and the 88 members who make up the Assembly of Experts. The main tasks of the above-mentioned Assembly of Experts are to monitor the actions of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution and his election in the event of a vacancy or even dismiss him from office, which has never happened before. The new assembly that emerged from elections today is expected to be responsible for finding a successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 84 and has been at the helm of the system since 1989.

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Relations between Iran and the West are in crisis. The election of a conservative and ultra-conservative chamber will not lead to rapprochement with the Western world in a situation marked by the war in Gaza and the armed activities of Iranian regime proxy organizations against Iranian and American interests throughout the Middle East.

Although Tehran claims that it is not directly engaging in aggression against the West, the truth is that since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas over Gaza, the allies of the Iranian theocracy – appendages of Tehran’s strategy – have been attacked by the Houthi rebels in Yemen to the pro-Iranian militias based in Syria and Iraq, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, have been targeting Western interests with their attacks since October last year. And that has increased fears in recent weeks of a large-scale regional war conflagration and even a direct confrontation between Washington, Tel Aviv and Tehran.

Hundreds of Iranian public figures denounced the election farce and called for abstention today; including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Narges Mohammadi -who is in prison- for whom the boycott is “a moral obligation for Iranians who love freedom and seek justice.” The Reformist Front bloc, a coalition of several more liberal parties, has said it will not take part in today’s parliamentary elections becomes.

Former figures of the regime born in 1979 have also expressed their opinions on the elections, such as the former reformist President Hasán Rohaní (2013-2021), who sought entry into the Assembly of Experts and was excluded by the electoral authority, protested against the decision. Former President Mohamad Khatami (1997-2005) also dared to claim that “Iran is far from having free and competitive elections.”

With the exclusion of the reformist personalities existing within the system and the persecution of any political dissidents – which, beyond the electoral veto, has manifested itself in imprisonments and executions – the Iranian regime is celebrating its 45th anniversary. According to calculations by various NGOs, the suppression by the Iranian authorities of the urban and youth-based protest movement that emerged from the death of Mahsa Amini has almost disappeared 500 dead and an increase in restrictions on the freedom of the population, especially women.

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