Iran after February 26 Elections

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mohammad Khajouei
Senior Middle East Analyst

In a region where dictatorship and terrorism have deprived people of free and secure life, Iranian people once again went to the polls on February 26 to show that they tolerate neither totalitarianism nor use of violence to bring about change; and this issue has been the secret of the Iranian society’s forward march in such a tension-ridden region.

Elections for the 10th term of Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) and the fifth term of the Assembly of Experts should be considered as an extension of and complementary to Iran’s presidential polls in 2013.

Most voters, who had already elected the moderate politician, Hassan Rouhani, as the country’s president, also showed more willingness to vote for moderate figures over two years later; moderate figures who have arisen from both main political currents in Iran, that is, the reformist and principlist camps.

By showing more willingness to elect supporters of the administration, the people of Iran actually endorsed the policies that have been followed by Rouhani administration during more than two past years; policies which seek to reduce political tensions and increase the rhythm of economic development in the country, while promoting constructive interaction outside the country.

The main mission of Rouhani administration is “normalization.” This means getting the country’s conditions back from a critical and emergency situation to normal conditions. The nuclear deal, whose achievement was the main goal of Rouhani, was also a major step in this process of normalization of relations.

As the political weight of moderate figures and supporters of the administration increases, Rouhani will have the chance to meet fewer obstacles for implementing his plans in the new Iranian year while the parliament is also supposed to be friendlier to him.

Therefore, opposition voice to the administration is predicted to be heard less frequently in the tenth term of the parliament compared to its current term.

Gradual normalization of conditions in Iran and delineating a positive future outlook have increased people’s hope and their trust in the administration, in particular, and in the Islamic establishment, in general. People’s high turnout in these elections and the fact that people still consider ballot boxes as the best way to bring about change, are signs of this new hope.

Of course, the Islamic establishment’s capacity to undergo change is another issue, which must not be taken lightly. Through these elections, many influential and important figures, including Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, the current chairman of the Assembly of Experts, failed to enter the Assembly and the ballot boxes constituted the main criteria in this regard.

The increased weight of moderate personalities and currents is not the end of the story. Iran, like many other countries in the world, has a pluralistic environment. Just in the same way that there are certain political currents, which defend constructive interaction with the world and increased foreign investment, on the opposite, there are other groups, which do not tolerate a reconciliatory approach to the world and keep beating the hostility and divergence drums.

It seems that further development of Iran hinges on the success of the first current. However, an important part of this success also depends on how world powers would deal with this approach.

Unfortunately, many of us, Iranians, have this bitter historical experience stowed away in our memory that at some junctures when Iran has opted for a reconciliatory and interactive policy, the answer given by certain world powers, including the United States to this policy, has been negative, deceitful and out of hostility.

For example, at a juncture, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami was elected Iran's president and adopted an interactive policy toward the rest of the world and even talked about the idea of dialogue of civilizations in his UN speech. Afterwards, Iran even cooperated with an international coalition for the overthrow of the then Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but the United States’ response to this approach, which had been adopted by Iran, was totally negative. As a result, before long, the then US President George W. Bush, put Iran, along with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and North Korea, in his so-called “Axis of Evil.”

Such hostile behavior and reluctance to hail Iran's interactive approaches caused the logic of Iran's moderate politicians and those who advocated reconciliation between Iran and the world to be questioned by their opponents.

The West and the United States must learn lessons from the past. Repetition of the past behavior and not giving a positive response to Iran's interactive policies at the present juncture when moderate figures are in power will have no other result but undermining this moderate current and reemergence of the anti-West current.

Key WordsIran, Elections, Islamic Consultative Assembly, Assembly of Experts, Reformists, Principlists, Rouhani Administration, Normalization, Political Weight, Moderate Figures, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Axis of Evil, The United States, Khajouei

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*Photo Credit: The Guardian