Home News After Raisi’s death, elections pose thorny test for Iran’s rulers

After Raisi’s death, elections pose thorny test for Iran’s rulers


For decades, Iranian leaders have cited high turnout in elections as proof of the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic’s political system.But with Voter turnout has dropped significantly in recent yearsthey must now be in President Ibrahim Raisi dies Will force political institutions to make decisions they don’t want to make.

The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has two options, each with risks.

He could ensure that the presidential election, which the constitution stipulates must be held within 50 days of Lacey’s death, is open to everyone from hardliners to reformists. But that would risk a competitive election that could take the country in a direction he doesn’t want.

Or he could repeat his strategy recent elections, to block not only reformist rivals but even moderate and loyal opposition figures. The choice could expose him to the embarrassment of lower voter turnout, a move that would be interpreted as a harsh rebuke of his increasingly authoritarian country.

Voter turnout in Iran has been declining over the past few years. In 2016, more than 60% of voters nationwide participated in parliamentary elections. By 2020, the figure was 42%. Officials have vowed Results for March this year It would be higher, but the actual proportion is slightly lower than 41%.

Just a week before Raisi’s death, Tehran’s final round of parliamentary elections garnered just 8% of the potential vote – a huge gain in a country where Khamenei once derided Western democracies for voter turnout of 30% to 40%. The numbers are shocking.

Mohammad Ali Shabani, an Iranian political analyst and editor of Amwaj, said: “Khamenei has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring people into the political process easily and in a face-saving way — if If he chooses to seize the opportunity.” an independent news outlet. “Unfortunately, what’s happened over the past few years suggests that he’s not going to go down that path.”

Iran is a theocratic state with a parallel system of governance, with elected institutions overseen by appointed committees. Major policies in the country’s nuclear, military and foreign affairs are determined by Ayatollah Khamenei and the Supreme National Security Council, while the Revolutionary Guards’ influence over the economy and politics continues to grow.

The president’s role is more limited to domestic policy and economic matters, but is still an influential position.

Elections remain an important litmus test for public sentiment. Low turnouts in recent years have been seen as a clear sign of deteriorating sentiment among the clergy, and of political institutions becoming increasingly hardline and conservative.

“This distance – the disconnect between state and society – is a serious problem for this regime,” said Sanan Wakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a think tank in London. “What they want is to rein in conservative unity, but it’s going to be hard to fill Lacey’s shoes.”

Mr. Lacey, The cleric, who spent years working in the judiciary and was involved in some of the most brutal acts of repression in the country’s history, is a staunch advocate of Mr Khamenei and his worldview.

Raisi is a loyal supporter of Iran’s religious rule and has long been viewed as a potential successor to the supreme leader – despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that he lacks the strong personality to pose a risk to Khamenei. Now, without a clear candidate to support, Khamenei may face infighting within the conservative camp.

“Lacey was a yes man, and his invisibility was the problem,” said Arash Azizi, a historian who focuses on Iran and teaches at Clemson University in South Carolina. . “The political establishment includes many people with significant economic and political interests. There will be a struggle for power.”

The candidates who are allowed to run will indicate the path the top leader wants to take.

Muhammad Bakr GhalibafA pragmatic technocrat, speaker of parliament and one of the country’s perennial presidential candidates, may try to run. But Azizi said his performance in parliament in recent years has received poor reviews. Parliament has done little to help resolve Iran’s economic crisis, and while Ghalibaf casts himself as a spokesman for Iran’s poor, reports in 2022 that his family went on a shopping spree in Turkey sparked national outrage.

Another possible contender is Sayyid JaliliThe former Revolutionary Guards fighter turned nuclear negotiator is seen as a hardline loyalist to Mr Khamenei. Aziz said his candidacy did not bode well for potential Western engagement.

In all of Iran’s recent elections, Khamenei has shown a willingness to eliminate any reformist or even moderate candidate who is seen as a loyal opponent. The results are clear: in 2021, Mr. Raisi won with the lowest turnout in a presidential election ever (48%). More than 70% of Iran’s 56 million eligible voters Voting in 2017 when President Hassan Rouhani was elected.

So far, there are no signs that Iran’s political establishment will change course.

Ms Vakil said of Khamenei: “The system is moving away from its republican roots and becoming more authoritarian. As long as he is satisfied with repressive control and the elites remain united, there will be no such thing. situation.” Looking forward to seeing changes. “

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