Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Speculation (political and journalistic)

It's eight months before the legislative elections in Iran, but people are planning for them. And journalists are speculating on what a few public statements mean.

Pay attention to the differences between what the politicians say and what the journalists think they mean.

Iran's next parliamentary elections ‘could be on a par with Turkey’
Hassan Rouhani
President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May.

“No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.”

Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament)…

In an interview with Tehran Bureau, a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, a leading party suspended since 2009, expressed cautious optimism.

“He’s certainly come out swinging, but he’ll eventually tone down the intensity as time passes,” she said. “He may be demanding today that these elections be on a par with those of Finland and the UK in terms of openness and freedom, but ultimately he’ll have to temper his expectations to something resembling Turkey’s elections. If his strategy gets results, it’ll be a step forward, since it should translate to more moderates and reformists and fewer fundamentalists in the majles.”

Fundamentalists have held a majority in the 310-seat majles since 2004, when they overturned a reformist majority, and changing this will not be easy. The fundamentalists’ predominance goes back to an election when the Guardian Council, which vets candidates, disqualified around 4,000 reformist hopefuls, including 80 sitting members…

For next February’s election, the reformists’ fears centre on the possibility that they or even candidates close to Rouhani’s government will be disqualified en masse…

Concerns around mass disqualifications can be explained in part by recent statements by Ahmad Jannati, 88, chairman of the Guardian Council since 1992.

“The leadership of the Guardian Council has not forgotten the ‘sedition’ as it relates to those candidates who would participate in the elections,” Jannati told the May gathering of municipal governors…

Jannati’s comments suggest that conservative factions within the governing apparatus are set on continuing revenge against the reformists and the Green Movement, and therefore have no intention of opening up the political arena. But there is clear, and unresolved, tension here with what Rouhani has said…

[A] Tehran-based reformist journalist, who argued next February’s elections were of the “utmost importance” given the wide powers of the majles, including over the selection of ministers.

“In the event that many reformist candidates are not disqualified, there may be considerable room for a competition that decides who controls the majles,” he said. “This would not necessarily translate into a democratic transformation of the legal sphere. The biggest gains will probably be seen over the economic situation and corruption. Although [wider] democracy is undoubtedly an urgent matter, the precarious political conditions simply don’t allow it at present.”

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