Iran’s presidential campaign is well under way. The unprecedented public attack by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, in which Ahmadinejad accused Larijani of trying to control Iran through a family-run mafia, attests to a deep divide within the Iranian regime. But unlike in most real democracies, the likely contenders for the presidency are not trying to woo reluctant voters with snazzy TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives. Indeed, many regime officials would prefer that many Iranians—especially liberal urbanites—not vote at all. The June election will not be about mobilizing the Iranian public. It is instead the culmination of a years-long evolution in Iranian politics: the transformation of the Islamic Republic from a mildly representative theocracy into a Revolutionary Guards-controlled kleptocracy. Ultimately, the election is meant to fulfill Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ambition of wielding absolute authority. But far from strengthening his rule, the election could actually erode the credibility and legitimacy of a fading regime. Elections in Iran have never been a truly democratic affair. Sure, Iranians have had the opportunity to vote for president and parliament every four years. But the elections have always been held within the accepted “framework”of the Islamic Republic. Only candidates who adhere to the Islamic theocracy are allowed to run.
Iran will stage its annual show of solidarity and defiance Sunday, a festive day of scripted rallies and fiery oratory marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and denouncing “satanic” Washington and its allies. But with a pivotal presidential election approaching in June, the veneer of unity among Iran’s diverse political blocs has been wearing thin as average Iranians struggle to cope with a withering, sanctions-driven economic crisis. Even before official candidates have emerged, a nasty spate of preelection infighting has erupted, unveiling an unedifying display of name-calling and mudslinging. Last week, Iranians witnessed the stunning public spectacle of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going before the parliament to play an apparently secretly taped video clip that, he alleged, exposed corrupt dealings by the powerful family of parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani — the president’s bitter rival and a possible candidate to succeed him.
Speaker Ali Larijani dismissed Monday “concerns” over the recent presidential election reform bill prepared by the Iranian lawmakers, APA reports quoting Xinhua. On Sunday, Majlis passed generalities of the presidential election reform bill. According to part of the bill, a presidential candidate requires at least 100 lawmakers to endorse him as a statesman or at least 12 members of the assembly of experts to endorse him before he can present his credentials, Press TV reported.
Iran will hold a second round of parliamentary elections on Friday to decide 65 seats still outstanding in its 290-member legislature following a March 2 first round. Conservative MPs of various stripes easily dominated in the first round, meaning the parliament’s political stance is unlikely to change significantly from the previous legislature. But with half of them new faces, it will take until after the inauguration of the next parliament, at the end of this month, to see how that conservative force is configured.