Election Eve Disconnect: Spotlight on Majles’s Ineffectiveness

Three days before what is considered one of the most pivotal elections in Iran’s recent history, the chasm that separates the disillusioned, the cautiously optimistic, and the staunch supporters of the establishment has widened dramatically. As the election approaches, regime loyalists employ various strategies, including invoking divine promises, to bolster voter turnout. Meanwhile, the disillusioned and the hopeful are engaged in heated debates about the effectiveness of the Majles in addressing national issues and are expressing concern over Iran’s diminishing credibility on the global stage.

There is increasing chatter among those disillusioned with the electoral process, criticizing the Majles’s perceived ineffectiveness and its limited authority in crucial national decisions, such as foreign policy, sanctions, economic challenges, social freedoms, and corruption. Although it is widely recognized that matters such as foreign policy fall beyond the Majles’s purview, the legislative body has struggled to influence domestic policies in alignment with public expectations and demands. For example, as reformist critics point out, various legislatures, regardless of their political affiliations, have failed to independently investigate significant crises, such as the serial murders of intellectuals in the 1990s, the 2019 fuel protests, and the widespread unrest following Mahsa Amini’s death in 2022. The Guardian Council’s stringent vetting process for candidates allows only those aligned with the Nezam to run for office, further fueling skepticism about the legitimacy and efficacy of elections. The reformist newspaper Jahan-e San’at points out the futility of the Majles, arguing that even with all disqualified candidates participating, they would not be able to effect change within the Islamic Republic. Opponents within this faction acknowledge these failures, yet many remain concerned about preserving the image and façade of legitimacy of the electoral process and the government on the global stage. They caution against the dangers of delegitimization, drawing parallels with countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria, which experienced foreign interventions following the international perception of illegitimacy. Some critics compare skeptics of voting to figures like Ahmed Abdel Hadi Chalabi, who advocated for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, accusing them of pursuing personal interests after the loss of national legitimacy. Another argument posits the necessity of preventing hardliners from pushing their authoritarian agenda. Given the plummeting trust in political parties, elected bodies, and the establishment, it remains uncertain whether these arguments can motivate the undecided to vote, especially without witnessing sincere efforts to rebuild trust.

On the other side, Nezam loyalists and those tasked with encouraging participation are making significant efforts. IRIB, the administration, and outlets close to the IRGC offer optimistic predictions for voter turnout based on unspecified polls, emphasizing the Majles’s potential role in addressing livelihood challenges, combating corruption, and ensuring proper law enforcement and budget allocation. Efforts to attract voters in the conservative camp also exploit religious sentiments and symbolic gestures towards women’s issues, despite a lack of genuine concern for women’s rights. This year, there is heightened awareness among both citizens and the government regarding unrealistic electoral promises. The government has declared such promises as violations, while citizens and intellectuals are increasingly willing to challenge candidates, including President Ebrahim Ra’isi, who is a candidate for the Assembly of Experts election, on their impractical pledges. Hardliners continue to accuse reformists of deepening divisions and siding with anti-regime factions, alleging divisions and a loss of popular support among reformists. Such accusations by conservatives are likely aimed at stirring enthusiasm and participation in the electoral process. Meanwhile, the conservative faction faces internal discord, adding to its supporters’ disenchantment. Instances of nepotism and lingering questions regarding the eleventh-hour alliance between longtime rivals—the Paydari Front and Majles Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf—further fuel this sense of disenchantment.


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