Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, February 26, 2016

Cleavages and issues in Iran

What cleavages and issues can you identify in this report from The Guardian.

From Kurdistan to Tehran: the urban-rural divide as Iranians turn out to vote
As excitement mounts leading to… parliamentary elections, a palpable difference in priorities is emerging, as it often does, between voters in Iran’s urban areas and its provinces…

While provincial voters are primarily concerned with practical issues related to rural development and ethnic and kinship affiliations, urbanites are often drawn into the kind of political and ideological discourse that makes national headlines – a never-ending battle of reformists, principlists, moderates, and everything in between.

Farshad, a campaign organizer for a Kurdish candidate in Kermanshah province, has studied in Tehran and experienced the urban-rural contrast firsthand.

“People here are not subject to the forces of national politics,” says Farshad of the political environment in the Kermanshah district his candidate is hoping to seize. “Elections in big cities, especially in Tehran, are subject to the political situation – how open or closed the political environment is.” He adds: “Instead of our demands being political, the demands here are more local.”

Voters are concerned with economic development, Farshad says of Kermanshah’s electorate. “Instead of looking for a representative who ascribes to a certain political discourse, they’re more interested in someone who’s going to bring about welfare, development, and better services.”…

Reformists usually draw the largest crowds among the capital’s urban dwellers, discussing jobs, women’s issues and social liberalization… But after Iran’s major vetting body, the Guardian Council, disqualified most major reformist candidates in the run-up to Friday’s election, reformists have centered on whipping up excitement to maximize voter turnout. In turn, they hope to exert as much influence as possible on the Iranian parliament’s political makeup for the next four years…

Political parties in the western sense do not exist in Iran. Instead, voters choose between lists of various “movements,” or “political suggestions,” says Mehdi, a reformist activist in Tehran, prioritizing the factions that feature recognizable candidates. Now, many voters feel the Guardian Council’s vetting mechanisms have limited their choices to candidates that, while officially running as reformists, may in fact be conservatives with only token reformist tendencies…

Since most known reformist figures have been eliminated from the race, pro-reform voters have been relegated to “second and third-tier reformists” who have been re-qualified by the Guardian Council…

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