As candidates registered for Iran’s parliamentary elections, politicians in the reform camp expressed concern regarding the potential disqualification of many candidates.
On the initial day of registration October 19, a total of 959 candidates officially entered the race, with the registration process set to continue for an additional week. Earlier, an unofficial registration process saw approximately 49,000 candidates vying for the 290 parliamentary seats in Iran’s Majles, in the elections scheduled for March.
The registration unfolds in the midst of widespread observations that the Majles (parliament) no longer holds a pivotal role in decision-making within Iran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has significantly curtailed the parliament’s authority by transferring key decision-making responsibilities to the heads of the government’s three branches or the Expediency Council, a non-elected body whose members are directly appointed by Khamenei.
Simultaneously, grievances persist regarding the vetting process, as the Guardian Council, responsible for approving candidates, often arbitrarily disqualifies individuals who do not align with Khamenei’s preferences. In recent rounds of presidential and parliamentary elections, the Council disqualified all reformist and moderate candidates, effectively consolidating power in Iran in the hands of ultraconservatives who have exhibited inefficiency in their governance.
Certain reformist figures have already chosen to boycott the elections, while others, such as former President Mohammad Khatami, have declared their decision not to participate, though they have not explicitly announced a formal boycott.
The Spokesman for the Reform Front, Javad Emam, told the press that in fact “It is not the reformists, but those who deprived the people of fair elections who have boycotted the upcoming parliamentary elections.”
He elaborated by saying, “We have no issues with the ballot box, as it represents the will of the nation. However, regrettably, the people have been denied the opportunity for a fair electoral process through the ballot boxes.” Emam went on to express his perspective that “The current state of affairs in Iran deviates from the ideals of the 1979 revolution. The people have been deprived of their constitutional right to shape their own destiny.” He further added, “This deviation from the Constitutional Law calls for the restoration of the people’s political participation.”
The spokesperson also emphasized that the public’s trust in the government has been severely eroded following the protests of the previous year. As long as this trust remains unrestored, “we, as reformists, find it challenging to engage people’s interest in participating in elections.”
Meanwhile, centrist politician Gholamhossein Karbaschi said in an interview with the official news agency IRNA that “If reformists wish to boycott the elections, they had better declare this boycott publicly rather than keeping silent about it.”
He made it clear that he is no longer a member of the reform front, adding that “I do not like the political taste of the Reform Front.” Karbaschi had earlier declared his opposition to a woman, Azar Mansoori, being the leader of the front. In this interview he said: “The Reform Camp’s former leader, Behzad Nabavi preferred reform over revolution.”
Further explaining his opposition to boycotting the elections, Karbaschi reiterated that “Blind radicalism in the reform front will not lead to anywhere.” He explained that reformist cannot be in the reform camp and be part of the opposition at the same time, but this is a situation that has been imposed on the reform camp by the government.
Karbaschi’s criticism of reformists contrasts with the opinion of the anti-regime opposition that sees them as responsible for keeping the Islamic Republic alive, by promising people reforms for 25 years.
Former President Hassan Rouhai had earlier warned Iran’s ruling ultraconservatives in a message to his own Moderation and Development Party that the government is wasting the opportunity for coming to an understanding with the people and that if the government fails to pave the way for everyone’s political participation, it is likely to lose its ability to solve domestic and international problems.