Inside Story

Iran elections clouded by doubts

As Iranians cast their ballots for the first time since the disputed 2009 polls we ask if anything has really changed.

Friday’s parliamentary election in Iran is the first national election since the disputed presidential poll of 2009 when mass protests rocked the country.

It is a budding democracy in Iran. It requires work from patriots, from seculars, from the religious, from everybody who can help this country, who’s willing to take risk of being imprisoned and to come here and contribute.”

– Kian Mokhtari, a freelance columnist

The election is being seen as a contest between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, whose once-close relationship has deteriorated in recent years.
But in the absence of reformist candidates, and with members of the opposition calling for an election boycott, Iran’s ruling conservative faction has the election all to itself.

Iran is going to the polls to elect 290 members of its parliament, known as the Majlis.

Friday’s vote comes at an uncertain time for the country. It is facing greater sanctions from the West, a threat of attack from Israel and a growing rift within the government.

This is also the first time Iranians are returning to vote since the 2009 presidential election.

Everything is run by the supreme leader, he has the ultimate veto. All the laws and policies have to be okayed by him. Even in the 2009 elections it wasn’t until Mr Khomenei said that Mr Ahmadinejad had won that the election results were confirmed.”

– Nazenin Ansari, a diplomatic editor for Kayhan weekly newspaper

More than 5,000 candidates signed up to contest when registration opened on December 27, but more than a third were disqualified.

Many were from the reformist movement, including several sitting members of parliament. That is the faction that is now boycotting the election.

Candidates had just one week to campaign. Voting will take place in 47,000 polling booths in more than 200 areas.

In this show we ask: What does the parliamentary election mean for Iran? Has anything changed since the political unrest three years ago? And just how much power does the Iranian parliament hold?

Joining presenter Dareen Abughaida to discuss this on Inside Story are: Kian Mokhtari, a freelance columnist, and an advisor to Iran’s foreign ministry; Nazenin Ansari, a diplomatic correspondent for Kayhan weekly newspaper, and the former president of the Foreign Press Association; and Potkin Azarmehr, a blogger and a political activist who is also a contributor for publications such as the Guardian and Wall Street Journal.

“We may see a change in the constitution where they do away with the presidential elections as well because holding it is a headache for them, and the Majlis may even elect the president directly. In other words, forget about any sort of election in Iran altogether. It’s a complete sham.”

Potkin Azarmehr, a blogger and political activist