Five reasons so many Iranians want to run in February’s elections

Ali Omidi writes: Speculation is that if the Guardian Council approves the candidacies of Khomeini, Rafsanjani and Rouhani, this trio will be able to change the conservative face of the Assembly of Experts. Meanwhile, in the case of parliament, it appears certain that its current conservative face is about to change.

Mindful of the above, the surge in the number of registered candidates can be traced to five main motivating factors.

First is the absence of institutionalized political parties in Iran. The main and most important reason for the surge in the number of candidate registrations is that there are no real political parties in Iran. Although various political societies and factions are active and officially registered, they have been unable, for a variety of reasons, to assume an active role in society similar to that of political parties in Western Europe or North America. As long as political parties are not institutionalized in the political system of a country, each individual can be considered competent on his own. Moreover, since the norm of having political parties does not exist in Iran, some only put forth candidacies because they like the idea of going to the Ministry of Interior to register and getting the related media attention. In addition, considering the rate of unemployment and economic decline in Iran, certain educated but jobless individuals believe that becoming a member of parliament is an opportunity to gain access to better economic and political opportunities.

Second is the Reformists’ strategy. Supporters of the Rouhani administration, including Reformists, have adopted the strategy of introducing a lot of candidates in the hopes that if their leading figures are disqualified, lesser-known Reformists will be given the chance to run for parliament and pursue the Reformist agenda. This strategy is useful for mobilizing people in order to change the political makeup of parliament and the Assembly of Experts, both of which are currently dominated by non-Reformists. Prominent Reformists can of course wield more influence and be more effective compared to second- or third-rate colleagues. However, the Reformists are not going to give up easily. They are hoping to at least increase the political cost for the conservatives if the Guardian Council engages in mass disqualifications of registered candidates. [Continue reading…]

Shahir Shahidsaless writes: The outcome-determinative nature of the elections was recently discussed by Ahmad Khatami, a leading conservative figure and the cleric who leads Tehran’s Friday prayer.

Khatami once remarked that because “Ayatollah Khamenei is currently 74 years old and will be 82 in the next eight years some are thinking that the fifth [meaning next] Assembly of Experts may have to decide on the next leader”. Also speaking to reporters on 21 December, the moderate Rafsanjani said that in these elections “our nation is getting ready for determining their fate for years to come”.

In the past three decades, there have been at the public level cordial relations between Rafsanjani and Supreme Leader Khamenei. However, the two men have represented two competing schools of thought.

In Rafsanjani’s eyes “there is no expediency above people’s opinion”. He argues that “attracting their [the people’s] satisfaction” is essential “for the longevity and stability of the country”. He once remarked that “without people, even a godly government will not sustain and will not get anywhere”. [Continue reading…]

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