Iranians head to the polls on Friday for national elections

 

Iranians will head to the polls on Friday for national elections to determine who will fill 290 seats in parliament and 88 seats in the Assembly of Experts.

For the parliamentary elections, Iranians must choose from 6,200 candidates, 584 of whom are women.

161 candidates are vying for election to the 88 seat Assembly of Experts.

Voter turnout for parliamentary elections is historically high with the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reporting a 64.2 percent turnout in 2012, but that doesn’t mean Iran will be considered a representational democracy any time soon.

Candidates are only allowed to run for seats after receiving the approval of the Council of Guardians.

12,000 people submitted applications to run, yet only 6,200 were ultimately approved. Not surprisingly, the rejections were the most drastic for those considered reformists.  According to The Economist, only 30 of the 3,000 reformist candidates were approved.

Since Iran is controlled by Islamic Clerics, those elected have little hope of making substantive changes. However, the elections are seen as a barometer indicating the popularity of President Hassan Rohani.  Newly-elected parliamentarians may attempt to block any future actions and force a showdown between the people and the government.

With a budget deficit of around 2.2 percent of GDP and lack of progress on reforms promised in the 2013 election, there is potential for a great deal of civil unrest.  Furthermore, political observers view this election as a referendum of sorts on Iran’s nuclear agreement with the United States.

There will be no spirited debates in this election but there is always something at stake, even in a theocracy.

 

[Washington Post] [The Economist] [Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance]