Geneive Abdo reports on the eve of Iran’s parliamentary elections:
“Now, just hours before the polls open on March 2, Khatami and many other Iranians for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution will stage a boycott. This is the only election in which a major political faction will remain on the sidelines. All the ‘signs,’ as Khatami put it, are there — the only candidates allowed to compete are largely from three conservative factions among the regime’s shrinking cast of political elites. All others were banned from running candidates.
“But what is more significant than the rigged vetting process is what the election sadly reveals for many — a changed Iran. Gone is the euphoria that energized millions of Iranians before past presidential elections in 1997 and 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2000. Instead, this week’s elections will take place under the watchful eyes of 50,000 election ‘monitors’ nationwide, thousands of basij fighters designated just for Tehran, and the heaviest police presence since after the disputed presidential election of 2009…
“The scripted election also illustrates a political realignment that has occurred since 2009 and the consolidation of power around Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In addition to ensuring the reformists’ — and even quasi-reformists, such as Hashemi Rafsanjani — departure from politics, Khamenei’s loyalists have also paved the way for the demise of the ‘deviant’ faction, as it is called, which represents President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…
“After this election, assuming Khamenei will succeed in eliminating Ahmadinejad’s faction, only two political trends will remain relevant inside the political system. One is the conservative traditionalists who are members of the old guard, such as Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. The other is the far right, comprised of hardliners, grouped around Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an aging revolutionary figure who proclaims to be committed to the ideological purity of the Islamic republic, at last as he interprets it.”
With regards to the last paragraph, Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi and Ahmadinejad actually represent the same movement. Mesbah-Yazdi’s political party, the JPEE, has expressed support for Ahmadinejad’s presidency, and the cleric’s son Mojtaba Mesbah-Yazdi has said that his 2005 election “revived the true Islamic discourse.” However, Mesbah-Yazdi would most like to ascend to the Leadership after the death of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, and the Assembly of Experts, which will make that decision, was cleared of many of his supporters during those last elections.
Iran, in other words, is well along the way to becoming a clerical monarchy, one in which Khamene’i may even be succeeded by his son Mojtaba. In the minds of those running them, these elections aren’t for the people to choose, but rather to ratify choices already made.
(Crossposted to my blog)