Tehran’s domestic politics are torn ahead of March election

Yasmin Alem writes: The Iranian regime is at a crossroads. The parliamentary elections on March 2, 2012 are arguably one of the most consequential electoral events in the 32-year history of the Iranian theocracy. The legislative poll could serve as a barometer measuring the regime’s legitimacy, assessing the state of its internal conflicts and projecting its political future. But what distinguishes this election from previous ones?

Part of the significance is timing. The upcoming poll will mark the first election since the uprising that followed the 2009 disputed presidential election. What Iranian leaders often referred to as the “pillar of the Islamic Republic”, the electoral mandate, nearly became the cause of its undoing two years ago.

City council elections, slated for the winter of 2011, were postponed as the regime paved the ground to repress dissent, marginalise opponents and ponder the future.

It is precisely for this reason that from a security point of view, the 2012 vote is peculiar. Alarmist rhetoric of the ruling elite reveals the stress levels in Tehran. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has openly called the March vote a potential “security challenge”. His protégé, the minister of intelligence Heydar Moslehi, has described it as the “most sensitive elections in the history of the Islamic Republic”.

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