Millions of Iranians are heading to vote in Friday’s general elections, which will select a new parliament and Assembly of Experts, the clerical body in charge of choosing a successor to the supreme leader (NYT). The vote could provide a gauge of public approval of President Hassan Rouhani’s leadership (Al Jazeera), including last year’s historic nuclear deal with world powers that lifted a set of crippling international economic sanctions on the country. Early reports suggested high turnout and long lines at polling stations (Reuters), and full election results are expected to come out early next week.
“Reality, not idealized hopes or fantasies, needs to guide our view of what's possible when it comes to liberalizing and democratizing authoritarian societies. And that goes double when it comes to thinking that external factors, such as the nuclear agreement Iran and world powers completed last year, will produce significant internal change in the Islamic Republic. Indeed, for the foreseeable future, that accord may have the opposite effect. Here's why: America may have gotten what it needed with the nuclear accord, but Iran got what it wanted—an accord that would consolidate the government's power, not undermine it,” writes Aaron David Miller for the Los Angeles Times.
“This election will be an indication of how Rouhani, [considered a pragmatist], has managed to capitalize on his nuclear success and translate that into popular support to have a less antagonistic Majlis and Assembly of Experts. His economic policies have not been very effective, but many people prefer [the current economic situation] to the alternative they have seen—what happened under Ahmadinejad for eight years, when the economy was in shambles despite unparalleled petrodollars,” says Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar in this CFR interview.
“As Iran enters its first election cycle since the advent of the nuclear deal, what is striking is how little either the Assembly of Experts or the parliament will affect national affairs. A conservative parliament will prove cantankerous, but, under the steady hand of Larijani, a largely compliant body. And the Assembly of Experts’ mostly octogenarian clerics will meet occasionally to play a mostly ceremonial role. The Islamic Republic’s most crucial political maneuvers will continue to be managed by a cast of few—including Khamenei, Larijani, and Rouhani—as opposed to the elected institutions of government,” writes CFR’s Ray Takeyh in this Expert Brief.