The Ninth Parliamentary Elections in Iran

A demonstrator holding flowers and a small Iranian flag (without the emblem of the Islamic Republic) during a demonstration in Dallas, Texas in 2009.
Source: flickr/SteveRhodes, license: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

February 21, 2012
Hosein Ghazian
There is a humorous story that some Iranians tell each other when they talk about elections. They say an American, a Japanese and an Iranian were engaged in a heated discussion about elections in their own respective countries. Each boasted about the speed of counting the votes and announcing the election results in his country. The American said, we use such an advanced technology in the electoral process that, forty-eight hours after the polls close, we can announce the results. The Japanese responded, we have an even more cutting-edge technology and people would know who has won and who has lost only 8 hours after the polls close. The Iranian said, what you say is nothing. We have made such great leaps in this field that we require neither forty-eight hours nor 8 hours after the polls close to announce the results. Even forty-eight hours before the election, we already know the results and who has won and who has lost.

Humorous stories of this sort have been circulating in Iran throughout the life of the Islamic Republic in the last three decades. Nonetheless, it is interesting to know that according to official statistics, on average 65 percent of people have participated in presidential elections and 60 percent in parliamentary elections during the last three decades.

Even if all these numbers are fabricated, one of the most pressing questions about the future parliament is whether the people who tell these stories will also crowd the polls to vote in the same numbers as the past. And if they do not participate, will the government still announce a high voter turnout? In other words, will the announcement of results follow the same pattern that has been the norm in the last three decades, or will it resort to the tactic which triggered widespread protests after the 2009 presidential election? Apart from the important topic of the voter turnout, will the approaching election encounter serious challenges with respect to competition? Have the members of Parliament, as the humorous story has it, have been selected in advance and is the existing competition just an electoral show?

Whatever the answer, the truth is that Iran’s parliamentary election in March of this year has assumed a significance that is unparalleled in the history of the Islamic republic. Even Iran`s  Supreme Leader some time ago warned about the occurrence of probable security challenges in this election. Iran’s Intelligence Minister has also suggested that this election is the most crucial election in the lifetime of the Islamic Republic. All this exists if we do not take into account the deteriorating condition of the political system in the face of foreign pressures and threats and the turbulent situation of national economy. In any case, all signs point to the special circumstances of this election and the anxieties that it has caused for the system. I will try to shed light on the reasons and magnitude of these anxieties from the two perspectives of participation and competition. In addition, in light of examining these challenges, I want to look briefly at the future developments of Iran’s political stage in the wake of this election.

Read the full article "The Ninth Parliamentary Elections in Iran" (7 pages, pdf, 485KB)

Dr. Hosein Ghazian
is a visiting scholar at Syracuse University. A member of the Iran Sociology Association, Dr. Ghazian’s research interests in public sociology focus on culture, gender, and politics. He is one of Iran’s most prominent sociologists and his articles on Iranian intellectuals and on gender issues have been the subject of much debate in Iranian society.