Iran’s Parliamentary Elections

In other election news, Iranians voted for parliament yesterday, although how many actually voted seems to be the first spin battle over the election’s significance. Here’s how the AP saw it:

Only a handful of voters showed up at many polling stations in Tehran on Friday in Iran’s parliament elections, a sign of frustration with a vote that hard-liners allied with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are expected to dominate. . .

Iran’s reformist movement, which seeks democratic changes at home and better ties with the West, was largely sidelined in the race after most of its candidates were barred from running by Iran’s clerical leadership.

Here’s how IRNA, one of Iran’s official press organ, saw it:

Iranians responded to the United Nations Security Council’s anti-Iran Resolution 1803 by their massive turnout at the parliamentary election on March 14, Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters, he said the Iranian people showed to the world that the resolution which was adopted by the UN Security Council against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program had no impact on their national will.

PressTV, a semi-official press organ, put turnout at 65%. I’m leaning towards the AP’s version, but that might just reflect my Western bias. Actual results should be available over the next few days.

The big story for the Western press has been the exclusion of the reformists from the balloting. But it’s important to remeber that Iran pursued its clandestine nuclear program while the reformists were in power. As for the more pragmatic conservatives like Hashemi Rafsanjani, there’s not a whole lot of daylight between his negotiating position and that of Ahmadinejad. In a sermon yesterday, Rafsanjani reiterated the standard Iranian position of negotiations with no pre-conditions (ie. no uranium enrichment freeze). So while the exclusion of the reformists is significant for what it reveals about Tehran’s general orientation, I’m not sure it will have a major impact on the particular issue of the nuclear standoff.