Iran’s Election Results Show Pendulum Swinging Away From Hard-Liners

Iran’s Election Results Show Pendulum Swinging Away From Hard-Liners
Members of Iran's Assembly of Experts attend their last seasonal meeting of the fourth assembly, Tehran, Iran, March 8, 2016 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Last month’s elections for Iran’s parliament and Assembly of Experts were complicated by the elaborate and extensive vetting procedure that filters out candidates considered too radical for the system. The overwhelming majority of those disqualified candidates belonged to the progressive end of the spectrum, usually referred to as reformists. Yet despite the authorities’ efforts to manage the outcome, Iran’s hard-liners still lost their majority in Iran’s 290-member parliament, or Majlis, while moderates won a majority in the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body tasked with choosing the next supreme leader. Key hard-liners, including two prominent clerics from the Assembly of Experts, were voted out.

The elections were the latest sign that when Iranian voters are mobilized by push or pull, they tend to get their message across. The “pull” is to vote in candidates that channel popular positions, and the “push” is to vote out candidates who are perceived as not addressing the concerns of the electorate. While the extensive vetting process that handicaps elections in Iran can weaken the pull factor, it cannot neutralize the push—it can only present the electorate with more or less palatable candidates. Once the candidates clear all pre-election hurdles, the voters can use their own metrics to ensure that their voices are heard.

As a result, a basic rule of Iranian elections has been that high voter turnout favors the more popular reformists, while a low voter turnout gives less popular conservative candidates a better chance of getting elected. This creates a paradox, in which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insists on a high voter turnout as a way of regularly proving the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic, while hoping the electorate does not get too enthusiastic about certain candidates. Khamenei and many other conservatives want to have it both ways, but they don’t always get what they want.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.