By James Hess, Ph.D.
Professor, School of Security and Global Studies, American Military University
Iran’s parliamentary elections last Friday saw the lowest voter participation since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. About 42 percent of voters turned out for the elections. Previous elections typically see more than 60 percent of voters, but this was the first one with less than 50% of voter turnout.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei blamed the media for its “negative propaganda” of the coronavirus for the low voter turnout.
Friday’s Winners Election Depended on Who Was Closely Aligned to Khamenei’s Ideology
The winners on Friday were those people who are most closely aligned to Khamenei’s ideology. Some media sites point to this event as a result of actions by the U.S. and Iran. For example, the U.S.’s targeting of Qasem Soleimani, Iranian commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), helped to sour the Washington-Tehran relationship.
Iran has decided to move away from any hope of working with the West, regarding its economy and nuclear power. While this behavior is valid, it has significant caveats. For instance, the Iranian Guardian Council, which consists of 12 senior clerics approved by Khamenei, approve all laws from parliament.
In other words, Iran’s position doesn’t significantly move away from any parliamentary foreign policy, but rather from the beliefs of the jurisprudential understanding of Iran’s Ja’farism – religious ideology defined by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his treatise, “Welayat-el faqih” or “Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist.” The Guardian Council is made up of those people who are viewed as experts in Ja’fari jurisprudence (fiqh).
Iranians Are Frustrated and Showing Their Discontent with Iran’s Leaders
Iran’s parliamentary elections demonstrates the frustration within Iran with Khamenei and the Guardian Council’s theocracy. As a result, voter turnout was 20 percent less than just a few years ago.
The ongoing conflict of words with the U.S., the sanctions against Iran, and the shooting down of a Ukrainian plane all have Iranians frustrated with a regime that is being viewed more and more as less than forthcoming. The ideology of the Guardian Council is powerful, but we might be witnessing a vulnerability in the infallibility of the jurists running the country.
About the Author
Dr. James Hess is a professor at American Military University. Dr. Hess received his Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, where he studied improving analytical methodologies in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism environments. He is also a fellow and affiliated faculty with the University of Arizona’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
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