1709575247 What happened in Iran39s elections and why abstention is a

What happened in Iran's elections and why abstention is a gift to the conservatives


“I boycotted the elections. It was an internal conflict between conservatives,” Sorush, an activist from Tabriz, told us. We voted for it last Friday March 1st Renewal of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis). and the 88 members of the Assembly of Experts who must elect the Supreme Leader's successor, Ali Khamenei, 84 years old.

A landslide victory for conservatives and ultra-conservatives

The first results released by Iranian authorities identify one overwhelming victory for conservative and ultra-conservative politicians. “It doesn't surprise me. The geopolitical context that corners Iran for supporting the Palestinians favors radical politicians,” commented Amir, an activist from Tehran. This vote thus represented continuity with the conservative presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, in power since 2021, when turnout stopped at 48%. There are ultra-conservatives among the elected parliamentarians: Mahmoud Nabavian, Hamid Resaee, Amir Hossein Sabeti, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Mojtaba Zonnour.

Moderates and reformists once again saw thousands (12,000 in total) of their candidates removed by the Guardian Council before the vote. Among those not allowed to vote for the Assembly of Experts, the name of former moderate President Hassan Rouhani, in office from 2013 to 2021, stands out. Those elected from these two political currents include: Masoud Pezeshkian, elected in Tabriz, and Ali Motahari.

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The President, Ebrahim Raisi, renewed his place in the Assembly of Experts by receiving 82% of preferences in the South Khorasan constituency. Along with him, Ahmad Khatami, imam of Friday prayers, who was given his seat in Kerman, and Mohammad Sayydi, elected in the holy Shiite city of Qom, will also have a place in the assembly.

A low voter turnout

The candidates have until Thursday to file an appeal any irregularities. The Interior Ministry extended the closure of polling stations three times last Friday until midnight, citing queues at polling stations in the final hours of voting. However, there is another structural feature of the Iranian elections low voter turnoutremained at around 41% this time too, while it reached 42% in the 2020 general election.

The urban middle class in particular has boycotted the elections, with turnout at 24% in Tehran and higher peaks in rural areas. “Can we talk about democracy when in some cities less than a quarter of voters turn out to vote?” Sorush added.

It was the first election since the beginning of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, motivated by the murder of the young Mahsa Amini by the moral police on September 16, 2022. The protests demand an end to the veil requirement for a year and economic and social rights Iranians. “No, I won’t vote. These elections are just a propaganda show and those who take part in them are accomplices of the regime“, said some young people who supported the boycott of the elections.

“The activists who took part in the anti-regime movements en masse did not go to the polls. In recent months, checks and arrests of women's clothing deemed non-compliant have increased instead of decreasing,” Shiraz activist Shirin told us.

According to the Norway-based human rights organization Hengaw, there was at least one arrest in the Kurdish province of Sanandaj on the eve of the vote for calls for a boycott of the election. As if that were not enough, singer Shervin Hajipour, author of the song “Baraye”, the anthem of the protests of recent years, was sentenced to over three years in prison. The singer won a Grammy for Best Song for Social Change.


Voting as an “act of resistance”

And when supporters of the movements and many reformist leaders, including former President Mohammad Khatami, had openly called for a boycott of the March 1 vote, the Pasdaran were quick to thank Iranians for their “glorious” participation in the vote and gave a decisive response on the enemies”. Speaking before the vote, Hamidreza Moghadamfar, an adviser to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), said that “the main supporters of the massacre of thousands of women and children in Gaza are the same ones who are calling on Iranians not to do it.”
go to the polls and are the enemies of democracy.”

Even Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had urged Iranians to vote as an “act of resistance” against their enemies. “Elections are the pillar of the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei wrote on the eve of the vote

Between geopolitics and inflation

The US attacks in Syria and Iraq following the drone attack on the US base at Torre 22 in Jordan, which left three US soldiers dead, have sent the Iranian currency on a nosedive, which was already in the open following the attacks by Islamists The case was found by the state (ISIS) in Kerman in early January 2024.
“A large part of these people who do not like the ruling government in Iran do not accept it when they hear the US authorities talking about human rights in Iran,” explained Professor Foad Izadi of the University of Tehran.

In particular, the double standards with which the authorities in many Western countries treat the 30,000 Palestinian deaths in the Gaza war are also stigmatized by critics of the Ayatollah regime in Iran.

The loud calls from conservative politicians to take part in the elections were not enough; Iranians once again made their discontent heard en masse against a post-revolutionary system that is incapable of reforming itself from within and that finds a policy of continuity that the conservatives strengthens ultra-conservative wing close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the only possible antidote to the centrifugal forces that want a more radical change in the post-Khomeinist power structure.


Giuseppe Acconcia is a professional journalist and teacher. He teaches state and society in North Africa and the Middle East at the University of Milan and geopolitics of the Middle East at the University of Padua. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of London (Goldsmiths) and is the author of, among others, “Arab Notebook” (Bordeaux, 2022), “The Arab Spring” (Routledge, 2022), Migrations in the Mediterranean (FrancoAngeli, 2019), Der great Iran (Padova University Press, 2018).