What happened
Conservatives are expected to gain ground in Iran’s parliamentary elections on Friday thanks to the disqualification of many reformists and other opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reformists made up the bulk of around 1,700 candidates barred from running by Iran's Guardian Council—the unelected group of clerics and jurists that vets candidates. The vote’s real winners could be former members of the hard-line Revolutionary Guards, who could replace the Muslim clergy as the biggest force in the assembly. (BBC News)

What the commentators said
The deck is clearly stacked against candidates who want real democratic changes in Iran, said Farnaz Fassihi in The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required), but Ahmadinejad still has a lot to lose. A strong showing by moderate conservatives, who want the “revolutionary” Islamic republic to be a little more flexible, would weaken his authority. And even though the widespread disqualifications mean true reformists won’t “make big strides in the polls,” even a “decent showing” would mark a serious challenge to Ahmadinejad “ahead of presidential elections next year.”

“President Bush may have urged Iranians to boycott” the vote, said Nahid Siamdoust in Time.com, “but even the reformist factions who saw some 700 of their candidates disqualified by the Guardian Council are urging their supporters to vote.” Reformists are still competing for 100 seats out of 290 in the legislature, which is a start. And “the only other options are either another revolution, or a foreign invasion—and, like most other Iranians inside Iran, they reject both out of hand.”

Reformists may have learned an important lesson the last time around, said Dieter Bednarz in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine. “Because many frustrated supporters of reform candidates stayed at home in the last parliamentary election, the well-organized conservatives were able to capture the majority in the parliament.” But no matter what reformists do, Ahmadinejad and his conservative allies still have money, and a rigged system, on their side. “Not surprisingly Ahmadinejad's party supporters are confident and composed.”