A Well-staged Show: Parliamentary Elections in Iran

News article, posted 03.11.2012, from Iran, in:
Marcus Michaelsen (translated by Aingeal Flanagan)
A Well-staged Show: Parliamentary Elections in Iran (Photo: Qantara.de)

Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wanted the country's parliamentary elections to be a "slap in the face" for all his opponents. The man at the top of the Iranian regime will undoubtedly be satisfied with the results of the election, which he previously described as a "critical moment".

For the first time since Iran's controversial presidential elections in the summer of 2009, Iranians went to the polls to elect a new parliament on 2 March. Back then, protests against President Ahmadinejad's rigged election victory thrust the Islamic Republic into one of the most serious crises of its history. Only a violent crackdown made it possible for the regime to keep the Green movement, which was calling for free elections and civil rights, in check.

Urgently needed legitimization

At international level too, Iran is currently under enormous pressure as a result of its nuclear programme. The regime perceives international sanctions and the possibility of an Israeli military attack as immediate threats. For this reason, the Iranian leadership hoped that elections would run smoothly, thereby giving it an urgently needed boost in legitimacy.

First of all, it was important that enough people actually went to the polls, an outcome that could be portrayed as a demonstration of the people's support for the system. In recent weeks, representatives of the regime stated that they were aiming for a turnout of at least 60 percent. Strangely enough, the recently published official turnout figure of 64 percent is identical to the figure announced by the state-run media on the day of the election, thereby giving rise to speculation that the elections were once again rigged.

It must be said, however, that a non-negligible section of the population is still willing to go to the polls. Where possible, people whose livelihood depends on the state need the stamp of their polling station on their identity card. Moreover, people who live in the provinces often feel that the only way to push through their local interests is to elect people to represent them in parliament in Tehran. What's more, against the backdrop of international threats, it is likely that widespread patriotism moved some to cast their vote.


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