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Iran’s Regime Effectively Ends Election Weeks Before Voting Day

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Iran’s ruling hardliners have crushed the election hopes of reformists and moderates in the parliamentary vote on March 1 by disqualifying nearly all their candidates.

Javad Heravi, the spokesman for the Moderation and Development Party, closely associated with Former President Hassan Rouhani and Former Vice President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, announced on Monday that very few candidates have been approved to run. Other likeminded parties also do not have enough approved candidates to form a coalition with them.

In Heravi’s words, “Practically, we are not players any longer,” indicating that one of the most significant moderate parties in Iran will not participate in the elections. He added, “We are not to be blamed if we do not have a list of candidates for the election.”

Javad Heravi, the spokesman for the Moderation and Development Party

Iran’s elections are not free from the start, with stringent vetting processes conducted by the interior ministry and the Guardian Council. This process has become increasingly political since 2020, resulting in the rejection of most non-hardliner candidates. As a result, hardliners, who are loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, dominate the elections.

This situation effectively means that hardliners have already predetermined who can run and win in the elections, as nearly all ultraconservative candidates have passed the Guardian Council’s scrutiny.

The party also criticized Iran’s foreign policy, citing recent missile attacks on neighboring countries and stating that it has left voters concerned about the upcoming elections. Additionally, Iran’s 50-percent annual inflation rate and economic crisis have added to people’s anxieties in the weeks leading up to the election.

Heravi explained that the Majles (parliament) cannot bring about positive change without elected lawmakers, and this can only happen with a high-turnout election. The party currently has 40 candidates remaining after the vetting process, but it will not release a candidate list unless it can field enough candidates for all constituencies in the country.

Furthermore, the party’s spokesman noted that state television and the government appear to treat the elections as a competition among conservatives, and many former lawmakers, including those close to former Majles Speaker Ali Larijani, have been disqualified by the Guardian Council. Heravi emphasized, “Party members and others cannot expect anything from us while we have not been given a chance to compete.”

Media reports indicate, the Guardian Council has not yet finalized the vetting results for 26 current members of the parliament and dozens of former lawmakers who have contested their disqualifications.

A former senior lawmaker, who has been disqualified by the Guardian Council, is Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the former head of the Iranian parliament and commentator who regularly writes about Iran’s foreign policy with a critical view.

Meanwhile, Hadi Tahan Nazif, the spokesman for the Guardian Council has said that 12,033 candidates have been approved to run in the upcoming election. He confirmed that 26 incumbent MPs, as well as tens of former lawmakers, have been rejected. However, he added that the Guardian Council will soon release one more list of qualified candidates.

In the face of public reluctance to vote and the lack of popular support for participating in the election, the government has mobilized clerics and young seminarians to encourage voter turnout. Seminary students have formed a group called “Forty Days of Advice” to motivate people in the 40 days leading up to the election. However, clerics do not enjoy significant popularity in Iranian society, which poses a challenge to this propaganda effort.

A cleric, Jalal Razavi Mehr, the head of the Association of Qom Seminary Students has said that voting in the election is as important as honoring the chastity of one’s wife and daughters.