Procedure and Outcome of 8th Majlis Elections

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Javar Ranjbar 

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Majlis (Islamic Consultative Assembly) elections are held every four years. In addition to electing 290 representatives into the parliament, the event is a full manifestation of the country's political condition, as well as the array of political forces and their programs for administration of the state.

Majlis (parliament) is an old institution in Iran. It entered the political arena of the country from early 20th century coinciding with the Constitutional Movement. A historical review of Iranian parliaments from the beginning up to now displays a relatively complete image of the ups and downs in Iranian politics by using new political tools.

Majlis election is the most important political event which brings into play a large section of the society from the capital city to the remotest villages and allows all those who are interested to play a role in the political scene of the country.

The 8th Majlis election held on March 14, 2008 (with the runoff election held on April 25, 2008) was unique in different aspects.

The 8th Majlis was held at a time that the previous two parliaments – the 6th and 7th – had displayed completely different procedures. The 6th Majlis in view of the reformists, was a successful, lively and specialized house eagerly following up the people's rights. However, in the opinion of their conservative rivals, the 6th Majlis was not only a failure but displayed unprincipled behaviors against the wishes of the IRI political establishment or what the conservatives describe as "divine values." Certain conservatives went as far as charging the 6th Majlis with "Westoxication" and accused them of serving the interests of the Western powers.

Nevertheless, in reviewing the record of the 7th parliament, these two groups shift displaces. The reformists consider the 7th parliament as sluggish, inefficient, indifferent towards the people's rights and obedient to the government. But the conservatives believe the 7th Majlis is a successful example of parliaments moving in line with the objectives of the IRI establishment which they say is fulfilling its inherent duties peacefully.

Some 7597 candidates registered for the 8th Majlis election but only 4755 or 60 percent of them were qualified by the Guardian Council to run in the race.

The number is 16 times more than the actual number of MPs in the Islamic Consultative Assembly. In other words 16 hopefuls competed for each seat.

The reformists announced that out of 207 constituencies to decide 290 seats, they had a chance of effective competition in only 50 constituencies. They said their presence in 85 constituencies would be without any hope for success. As a result, the reformists introduced only 134 candidates.

Despite all ups and downs, the 8th Majlis election was held in two stages. Out of the 280 seats - except for the seats won by representatives of religious minorities and the constituencies where the results have been nullified – the reformists won 54 seats and the conservatives gained 132 seats. The rest went to the independent MPs.

The Ministry of the Interior put people's participation rate at 60 percent saying it showed a rise of 9 percent compared to the previous Majlis election.

Despite all the controversies, the 8th Majlis election enjoyed a prominent feature, namely the active presence of political parties and coalitions. Reformist parties and personalities entered the competition by establishing a headquarters called "Friends of Khatami" thus rallying under their leader, former president Mohammad Khatami.

The conservatives too entered the race by forming the "United Principlist Front". Of course, the "Coalition Front of Principlists" as well as the "Reformist Front of Principlists" was also part of the conservative camp.

In the reformist camp too, the National Trust (Etemad Melli) Party headed by Hojjatoleslam Mahdi Karrubi participated in the election independently without being directly involved in the coalition headquarters.

Thus, the 8th Majlis election ended and 290 Mps found their ways into the parliament.

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