Politicians in Iran voice concern that barring reformist and non-conservative candidates will lead to a low turnout and lackluster parliamentary elections next year.
Some officials including former interior minister and deputy intelligence minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi are also deeply concerned about the adverse impact of the country’s dire economic situation on many voters who are simply dissatisfied with all regime politicians.
Pourmohammadi has said that the people are disgruntled, and this could lead to voter apathy as Iranian conservatives have been grudgingly acknowledging that the economic crisis gripping Iran for the past five years has worsened under hardliner president Ebrahim Raisi and as a result the regime’s legitimacy might suffer.
Referring to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call for a high-turnout election in March 2024, Pourmohammadi said in an interview with IRGC-linked Javan newspaper on Saturday that voters cannot be forced to go to the polls. The interview was widely carried by other news media in Iran including Didban website.
He said, “People will vote if they are happy about the current situation and have high hopes about the future.” Meanwhile he blamed various state organizations for popular dissatisfaction, but specifically singled out the presidential administration.
Pourmohammadi added that promises made by state officials and later forgotten, have deeply annoyed Iranians. He further added that the government and the ruling clerics should correct their behavior and stop blaming foreign enemies for the problems they have created themselves and failed to solve.
Pourmohammadi, a conservative cleric himself, maintained that young Iranians have distanced themselves from the ruling class. Conservative politicians and political parties should understand that winning a low turnout election is in fact a failure and will lead to further loss of trust between the people and the Iranian rulers.
The former minister also called for allowing “moderates” to run in the elections. Meanwhile referring to some reformist figures who have called for boycotting the elections if they are not allowed to run, Pourmohammadi advised them to avoid confrontational rhetoric. He also called on conservatives not to attack those who have talked about boycotting the elections. “Let us stress on our common points instead,” he said.
The role of the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog has become highly controversial after it disqualified hundreds of relatively moderate candidates in the 2020 parliamentary vote and again key leading figures in the 2021 presidential election. As a result, hardliners established total control of the legislature and are dominating all positions in the presidential administration.
In another development, former Guardian Council Spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai who is still a leading member of the Council has said that “When a candidate is disqualified by the Guardian Council, the reason(s) for his or her disqualification should be given to them in a confidential manner.” But, many disqualified candidates have said they never received a clear explanation. Most served in important posts in the past and could not understand why they were barred from running.
Referring to the changes made to the Election Law recently, many Iranian politicians including former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi have said that the changes have given the Guardian Council a more influential role in elections. He said based on the amendment made to the Election Law, the Guardian Council’s supervision continues until the endorsement of new MPs credentials. Meanwhile, the Guardian Council is now represented in the State and local Security Council meetings about the elections.