The Iranian elections are being hailed as a victory for moderates, and therefore President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, but according to experts, the so-called moderate victory is not what it seems.
Iranians took to the polls Friday in what could be one of the most important elections in the country’s history. As soon as vote counts rolled in, it appeared the so-called moderates, led by President Hassan Rouhani and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, had secured a victory. The problem is that many of the moderates are moderate in name only, according to experts.
“There were a number [of candidates] … that weren’t really moderate,” Matt McInnis, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former senior analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense specializing in Iran, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. He explained the idea that moderates won a victory over hardliners is “not really accurate” based on the fact that a significant portion of the true moderates were barred from running before the election even began.
All candidates running for office in Iran must be cleared by the Guardian Council, a small group of jurists and experts in Islamic law, handpicked by the supreme leader. Guardian Council members tend to weed out any potential candidates that could pose a threat to the hardline — the theocratic bloc led by the supreme leader. Over half of the candidates running for the Iranian parliament (Majles) and 80 percent of those running for Assembly of Experts were barred from running in Friday’s election.
The Assembly of Experts vote is particularly crucial in this year’s election because it is highly likely they will choose the man who will replace the aging and ailing current supreme leader, Ali Khameini. The 75-year-old Khameini was thought to be close to death last March due to prostate cancer.
Countering reports of a moderate win, Saeed Ghasseminejad, a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies specializing in Iranian politics, told TheDCNF, “in the Assembly of Experts election the hardliners (radical revolutionaries) won decisively.”
“The confusion on this issue is caused by the fact that reformists who did not have enough candidates filled their list with hardliners, who were already on the hardliners’ list, in order to defeat a handful of hardliners,” said Ghasseminejad. He explained that though there were some small victories in the districts around the capital of Tehran, which was expected, those results were not reflective of the country as a whole.
“In the Majles, the hardliners and the so-called reformers are tied. However, many candidates supported by the reformers are anything but reformer, even by the Islamic Republic standard,” he said.
Both experts agree the election won’t prompt any real change to U.S-Iranian relations.
McInnis said Rouhani and his moderates could have a stronger hand at first, but its unlikely that will continue long enough to make any true reform. He explained that the only real possibility for effective change would come in the future if a moderate contingent in the Assembly of Experts was able to elect a more moderate supreme leader.
“The White House is betting on that,” noted McInnis, though he is skeptical as to the possibility of a true moderate being elected given that Khameini will do “whatever it takes” to prevent any change in the hardline tradition of the supreme leader.
McInnis said he expects no change in terms of relations with the U.S. and Iran’s foreign policy in general. “These elections have almost nothing to do with those policies.”
Ghasseminejad said he anticipates no changes in favor of the moderates, instead, he believes the hardline bloc has galvanized control since they dominate the Assembly of Experts.
“I do not think the Supreme Leader and Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) feel threatened by the parliament so I do not expect them to have a bad reaction to [the results],” said Ghasseminejad. “Given that this election was the burial ceremony of the 2009 Green Movement, I think they are happy about it. Moreover, Parliament in Iran does not have much power and the bills it passes should be approved by the Guardian Council, so the Majles does not give Khamenei a headache.”