In the upcoming Iranian Parliamentary elections in March, a mere 2 percent of the 24,000 registered candidates are former lawmakers, while just 13 percent are women.
As per the latest figures, over 24,000 Iranians have registered their candidacy for the Majles election, down from the initial 50,000 who registered unofficially in August. This decline in interest may be attributed to the Majles’ unpopularity and the government’s perceived failure in economic and foreign policy.
Concurrently, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s political rivals have shown sensitivity towards his silence both on the domestic front and on the unfolding conflict in the Middle East.
Recent reports have indicated that politicians from across the Iranian political spectrum are keenly observing Ahmadinejad’s silence ahead of the March 1 elections. They have attempted to provoke him to take a stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, particularly given his notoriety as a holocaust denier.
In response to these pressures, Ahmadinejad, through his aide, lawmaker Ahmad Alirezabeigi, conveyed that he would only comment on the war if allowed to address domestic political issues as well. This response suggests that Ahmadinejad, known for his outspoken nature, is under government pressure to remain silent regarding political affairs.
Furthermore, Alirezabeigi clarified that Ahmadinejad does not intend to run for a parliamentary seat, but he will endorse like-minded candidates. It is speculated that the conservative coalition known as Sharian (Strategic Network of the Friends of the Islamic Revolution) will be instrumental in grooming pro-Ahmadinejad candidates.
Abbas Amirifar, a cleric known as Ahmadinejad’s exorcist, has told the media that the former president occasionally travels to the Caspian region to meet with his aide and relative Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, who is taking the lead in electioneering for Ahmadinejad. His other aide, Hamid Reza Baghai is also said to be helping Mashai to come up with a list of candidates.
Despite these efforts to weaken Ahmadinejad’s influence, many Iranians believe he remains popular among a significant portion of the population. Former Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri has criticized Ahmadinejad for his anti-Israeli rhetoric during his presidency and what he perceives as a waste of national resources. Jahangiri’s statement appears to be an attempt to further tarnish Ahmadinejad’s image ahead of the election.
As President, the populist Ahmadinejad engaged in virulent anti-Israeli and anti-West statements, stonewalling on the nuclear issues, which prompted stringent UN sanctions on Iran’s economy, and the beginning of a decade-long economic crisis.
Moderate conservative politician Mansoor Haqiqatpoor, a staunch supporter of former Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, also criticized Ahmadinejad, accusing the former president of hiding from the public to avoid expressing an opinion about the Israel-Gaza war.
Furthermore, Haqiqatpoor emphasized that both Larijani and former President Hassan Rouhani would encourage the public to participate in the elections. As of now, neither of them has officially registered their candidacy for the Majles, and Rouhani, who is a member of the Assembly of Experts, has not declared his intention to run for re-election in the assembly. The Assembly of Experts’ election takes place on March 1, concurrently with the parliamentary election.
During the previous round of parliamentary elections in Iran, more than 16,000 candidates had registered their candidacy. Only 13 percent of the current registrants are women, and a mere 2 percent are former parliament members. These candidates will undergo scrutiny by the Executive Committee of the Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council before February 1, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of candidates vying for the 290 parliamentary seats.