Loyalists Dominate Iranian Parliamentary Election
March 28, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On March 2, Iranians voted in an election to select 290 representatives for the Majlis, or parliament. According to the Christian Science Monitor, over 75 percent of the seats went to individuals aligned with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has strained relations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his attempt to fire the intelligence minister. Khamenei vetoed the decision, effectively ending the alliance between the two leaders. Khamenei’s support for Ahmadinejad was likely an important component of his re-election victory during the controversial June 2009 vote.
The power struggle resulted in a crushing defeat for Ahmadinejad’s supporters at the polls on March 2. Even in locations where Ahmadinejad took 90 percent of the vote in 2009, such as Isfahan and Tabriz, pro-Khamenei candidates dominated. Similarly, Khamenei’s candidates won in rural regions, which have been centers of support for Ahmadinejad. The boycott of the elections by reformists augmented the conservative nature of the new parliament. Agence France-Presse reported that 60 of the seats that reformists held in the previous Majlis went to other parties. Furthermore, 80 members of parliament (MPs) lost their bids for reelection, while the Guardian Council barred another 30 MPs from running for reelection. These events have resulted in many new faces in the Majlis this year.
The Majlis summoned Ahmadinejad for questioning on March 14, the first time a president has been summoned by parliament since the founding of the republic in 1979. CNN reported that MPs posed questions to the president for 15 minutes and then gave him about an hour to respond. The MPs pressed him on economic issues, and many expressed their dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad’s responses to Iranian state television. They felt insulted by his casual attitude and comments like: “I am joking with you. After all, it is the new year and we should be jovial.” Iranian state television reported that towards the end of the session Ahmadinejad said, “It would be unfriendly and disrespectful if you give [me a mark] less than an A."
The victory of conservatives in the recent election may influence talks over Iran’s nuclear program. According to Nazila Fathi at the Global Post, Khamanei will now have a mandate to decide on foreign policy. The regime hailed the voter turnout of 64 percent as a historic victory for Iran. Khamenei was concerned with the turnout for two reasons: the election was the first since the 2009 presidential race that had provoked massive anti-regime protests and a good turnout would be a symbol of support for the regime; secondly, Khamenei said that he wanted to “smack the face” of Israel and the United States with a large turnout to project an image of strength and confidence in the face of international pressure and threats to attack Iran.
News of the election was not well-received in the Arab Gulf States. Osama Al Sharif wrote in an op-ed for Gulf News that not only will Ahmadinejad be a lame-duck president from now on, “what is more important that is Khamenei can now turn Iran into a full-fledged theocracy with undisputed clerical powers vested in him.” However, it is not clear if Khamenei will act regarding domestic matters while the nuclear issue remains unresolved.
For previous news on Iran, please see:
Iranian Security Forces Block Opposition Protest Against Year-long House Arrest of Leaders
The Christian Science Monitor - Iran elections: Ahmadinejad reduced to lame duck
AFP - Anti-Ahmadinejad MPs dominate new Iran parliament
CNN - Iran's Ahmadinejad grilled by lawmakers
Global Post - What Iran's Election Results Mean
Gulf News - Ahmadinejad's fall, Khamenei's rise