While most analysts presented the recent parliamentary elections in Iran as a struggle between “reformers” or “moderates” on the one hand and “conservatives” or “hardliners” on the other, the actual contest was between the government’s supporters (both within the moderate and conservative factions) and its rivals among the conservative right.
In that struggle, it were President Hassan Rouhani’s supporters who won out, argues Wikistrat’s Dr. Raz Zimmt in this report.
The victory should help Rouhani implement his agenda, especially on economic policy. But Zimmt cautions against assuming moderation in Iran’s foreign policies or social controls.
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- Gains by moderates do not necessarily mean a failure for the regime: While election results could be considered a victory for the moderates, they also indicate the regime’s ability to gain back at least some of the legitimacy it lost following the 2009 crisis. The relatively high turnout and the reformists’ call for mass participation indicate that the majority of the Iranian public is ready to take part in politics despite the severe restrictions on participation.
- The President has seen a boost, but the real battle is still ahead: The new Majlis could provide the President with more power to promote his economic plans. However, the Iranian economy continues to suffer from significant structural problems — chief among them being corruption, lack of transparency, weakness of the private sector, and control exercised by powerful semi-governmental institutions like the Revolutionary Guards. The new Majlis might assist Rouhani’s efforts in carrying out certain economic reforms, but substantial economic improvement relies heavily on solving major structural defects. Such an uptick therefore remains doubtful.
- The public may be moderate, but the regime remains hardline: The results could indicate that given a real choice between hardliners and moderates, the Iranian public is more likely to choose moderation. Nevertheless, most power centers in Iran are not elected by the general public and are still controlled by hardliners. These include the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and the Law Enforcement Force. As long as this control prevails, a strategic change in Iran’s domestic or foreign policy is unlikely.
Dr. Raz Zimmt
Wikistrat Senior Analyst
Research Fellow at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel-Aviv University