Iran's Critical Elections: The Basics
AEI’s Critical Threats Project has been tracking election developments closely in Iran. This page will be continually updated with analyses of the results and their significance as the elections progress.
The composition of the Assembly of Experts, the political body charged with selecting Iran’s next supreme leader, is already tilting away from the moderates. Iranians will go to the polls on February 26 to elect 88 men to the Assembly of Experts from a predetermined list of candidates. A semifinal version of that list has been released.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s allies are losing one election even before any votes have been cast. Reformists and pragmatists generally aligned with Rouhani have been hoping to gain a solid bloc of supporters in the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that will likely select the next supreme leader in the course of its eight-year term.
The hardliners in the Iranian regime have set the stage for the upcoming elections to Parliament and the Assembly of Experts to prevent moderates and reformists from gaining influence, particularly over the selection of the Supreme Leader’s successor. Knowing that they are thwarting the desires of reformists and moderates, which make up a significant part of the Iranian electorate, they fear a repeat of the tumult that followed the rigged 2009 presidential elections and are readying the tools to suppress dissent.
One of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s greatest victories, the implementation of the nuclear deal, overlapped this weekend with a significant defeat. More than 12,000 Iranians registered to run for Parliament, but they first ran a gauntlet of reviews by various organs of the Iranian regime to determine whether they are “fit” to campaign. Very few Rouhani supporters and allies survived.
The Iranian elections in February 2016 will be a critical turning point for the regime. The parliamentary election will be an indication of how willing the regime is to allow reformists to gain power, as well as a referendum on President Hassan Rouhani’s policies. The Assembly of Experts elected in February will almost certainly choose the successor of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Islamic Revolution will likely either take a sharp turn or reject change and recommit to the current path for a considerable time.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei conditionally approved the implementation of the nuclear deal in a letter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani on October 21. Khamenei warned against U.S. deception and called for the complete removal of sanctions as well as the creation of a committee to monitor the deal’s implementation. The full text of the letter states:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The Honorable Mr. Rouhani