Iran’s Quasi-Democracy and Funny Elections………….

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The number of candidates who registered for the 2012 parliamentary elections is at its lowest since the 1996 elections. Only 5,395 individuals registered to run for parliament, a 33 percent drop from four years ago. Women comprise less than 10 percent of those who have registered to run. Mostafa Mohammad Najar, the minister of interior, has attributed this decline to amendments made to the electoral law, such as the prerequisite that a candidate hold at least a master’s degree. Other factors include the prevailing climate of political apathy, the marginalization of reformists, and prospects of harsher disqualifications. In sharp contrast, the number of incumbents seeking re-election is at a record high for the 2012 poll. Of the parliament’s 290 sitting MPs, 260 are seeking reelection. With incumbency rates averaging 35 percent in the last 30 years, it will be interesting to see how many deputies will be reelected and how many will lose ground to freshmen challengers. The elephant in the room, however, is the absence of leading reformists…………..

Iran is only a quasi-democracy:

  • The parliament is not a rubber-stamp. It often succeeds in rejecting the president’s nominees and have threatened to impeach him personally.  But that is part of the story.
  • People are elected freely, but not everyone can run for office, which reduces the freedom of the elections.
  • The president can run for only two consecutive terms (an idea borrowed from the Great Satan?), but his powers are also limited. (On the positive side, for some, this means Ahmadinejad will be out next year).
  • Reformists in Iran see no reason to contest the elections when the electoral system is distorted against them. Some of their candidates are always blocked by the clergy as ineligible to run.
  • Even when reformists get a majority in parliament, as they did a few years ago, their agenda is usually blocked by the Supreme Leader.
  • This not only discourages them from running and thus legitimizing the odd electoral system, it also discourages their many supporters from turning out to vote. Which in turn makes it meaningless for many of them to run. There is no point in running if the decks are stacked against them from the outset.