Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 29, 2016

Iranian legislative election

Didn't we have that in February? Yes, but not all races were decided then. Now, Mahmoud Sadri and Emad Goli offer this analysis of the second round elections in The Guardian (UK).

Discount ticket on the bus to reform: Iran's runoff elections
[A] crucial second round of voting on 29 April is approaching for 64 parliamentary seats in districts all around the country. These are the places that were too close to call in February, when 226 out of 290 seats were decided…

[M]ost of the run-offs are in small towns, scattered around 18 of Iran’s 31 provinces. The races are lively, proving that Iran’s provinces, even if rarely visited by Tehranis much less foreigners, are no longer mired in myopic local rivalries.

Few Iranians have failed to notice the polarisation and keen polemic between reformers and fundamentalists building up over recent years. Case in point: a 32-second video clip has gone viral of a rally on 7 March in Yazd, 388 miles from Tehran, when a mere mention of Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami sent the crowd into a frenzy of chanting jubilation…

Eight years of economic stagnation, international isolation and corruption charges under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have made the provinces sit up and take notice. With this election, issues larger than the usual local horse-trading are at stake…

Competition is keen. In the first round of elections on 24 February, out-and-out reformists won 86 seats, giving them and their allies around 54% of seats decided. Capturing a large number of the remaining seats will seal their February victory, a prospect that is encouraging the fundamentalists to rally and try to shore up their losses.

But the 29 April runoff races, despite the vetting process that favours the fundamentalists, bode well for the reform movement. Of the 128 contestants, 52 are on the reformist’s slate: “the Second List of Hope”.

In the past, the reform movement gave up when its candidates were disqualified. No longer. This time they have not given up even when their first-round candidate was defeated, but rather have recruited from among the remaining candidates. This means a candidate who ran as an independent or even fundamentalist in the first round can end up on the ‘Second List of Hope’ running against a more radical fundamentalist.

One Iranian activist puts it this way: after buses leave the terminals in Iran they stop for a second time at the edge of the city and offer discounted prices on any remaining seats. This is what the reform movement is doing. Having to go with a half-empty bus to the elections (because of disqualifications) it has acquired the habit of picking ‘in-between’ candidates, non-ideological moderates, or even ‘rational’ fundamentalists. This is a discounted ticket on the bus of reform…

How many of the 52 reformist-backed candidates will win on 29 April? The overall figures are tight. Mohammad Reza Aref, who was vice-president under Khatami and elected to parliament in Tehran in February has stated that 40 seats is the “must reach” target.

The bus is leaving soon.

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