Iran Parliamentary election

MEK Iran: Legislative Election in Iran Solidifying a Dissolving State

Iran Parliamentary election

Iran Parliamentary election is illegitimate

Iran’s legislative elections, for the 290 seats of the parliament called the Majles, is to take place on February 21. This is the 11th parliament since the foundation of the Islamic Republic.

The Guardian Council, a 12 member body designated directly and indirectly by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, screened the more than 16000 registered candidates to make sure they are in line with the supreme leader. Around half would be dismissed in the normal procedure. 90 out of 290 acting parliament members who had applied for another term are among those dismissed.

The screening procedure is as old as the Islamic Republic.

Apart the very first one in 1980, just after Khomeini took power in Iran following the downfall of the Shah’s regime, legislative elections like any other election in the Islamic Republic has been a “democratic” stage play first, then a gauge to measure or distribute dividends among members of a privileged minority holding the power by sheer force. So the mullahs have chosen to screen candidates regardless of their number or their political bent.

The first legislative election in 1980 was unique in the fact that political parties took part in the election. In order to prevent the opposition from entering the majlis, the regime was obliged to turn to massive rigging. The whole process was far from fair by any standards. But forces outside the regime in power took part, and that was the last time the regime let such an event take place.

In the first legislative election held in March and May 1980, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK Iran) presented a list of candidates for virtually every constituency in the country. Massoud Rajavi headed the list for Tehran. Several other MEK Iran members, including Maryam Rajavi, ran in Tehran for the Islamic Assembly (Majlis). Moussa Khiabani, Massoud Rajavi’s deputy, ran in Tabriz, and others ran in the north, where the group was strong. The MEK Iran attempted to demonstrate their broadened appeal by running on their ticket several moderate political figures. Despite more than half a million votes for Massoud Rajavi in Tehran and the fact that in many a constituency MEK Iran candidates were among the front-runners, the regime prevented the final election of any of those candidates, as Khomeini wanted a parliament free of any true opposition. But that election stayed in the history of the Islamic Republic, as the sole event in which even opposition members participated.

Hassan Rohani, acting president to the regime, said in a speech on October 9, 2019: “You cannot find a better Majlis (Parliament) than the first one because even the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK Iran) fielded candidates,” describing it as an imperative to political excitement. An hour later, the spokesman for the Guardian Council described Rouhani’s remarks as being against the Constitution.

Rouhani made reference to the event out of no great love for the MEK Iran. Following popular uprisings in December 2017 and January 2018, and after that in November 2019 and January 2020 that made the supreme leader Ali Khamenei realize he had to further solidify the regime around the IRGC as the main repressive force available to the regime, Rohani’s chances to maintain the “Good cop, bad cop” game began to fade. While the 10th majlis had a majority of what was referred to as “reformists” – that is those members in favor with Rouhani – the 11th cannot stay on the same trend. The actual state of weakness of the regime no longer permits a breach at the top, so the majlis, much like Rohani himself, has to align itself further and further with a unique guideline dictated by the IRGC and the supreme guide, Khamenei.

The main theme in slogans chanted against the regime during recent riots was: “Hard-liner, reformist, the game is over.”

Rouhani personally has no problem with the hard-line approach. Back in the 1980s, he was among those who even suggested that public executions take place at the Friday prayers in order to create a state of terror for those who were against the Islamic Republic.

Now the Guardian Council has an unprecedented job of dismissing a large number of candidates, keeping only those supposed to stay in line with the supreme leader so as to have a firm majority in a parliament where, given the actual weak position of the regime, no disorder can be tolerated.

A majlis more inclined towards Khamenei is likely to come out of the February 21 election. But as this solidification is a result of weakness and not of strength on the part of the regime, there is no guaranty that the whole thing would last long. With the ongoing social and regional crisis, the same majlis would take a short time before turning into a new arena for infighting in the regime.

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