Iran at the crossroads: have the mullahs lost their grip?

Iranian voters delivered a 'stinging rebuke' to the regime in parliamentary elections

Voters on election day in Iran
The result of Iran's elections was a 'foregone conclusion'
(Image credit: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images)

Nobody was holding their breath over the outcome of this month's elections to the Majlis – Iran's parliament, said Maryam Aslany and Rana Dasgupta in The Sunday Times. These were the first elections to be held after the wave of protests that convulsed the nation in 2022-23. That unrest, sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old student arrested for not wearing a hijab properly, had threatened the authority of Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, which is why he was so determined to frame last week's election as a public endorsement of the Islamic regime. To that end, every candidate was vetted by the Guardian Council, an assembly of 12 clerics controlled by Khamenei, which made it its business to disqualify almost all reformists and moderate conservatives from standing. Thus the result was always a foregone conclusion.

Yet even in this pitiful excuse for an election, Iranians managed to deliver a "stinging rebuke" to the regime, said Farnaz Fassihi in The New York Times. Deprived of their preferred candidates, many didn't bother to vote: turnout was just 41% – the lowest in the Islamic Republic's 45-year history. In Tehran, it was 24%. Khamenei tried to spin the outcome as an "epic" victory; it was anything but. Some 15,000 candidates ended up competing for 290 seats, said Sina Toossi in Foreign Policy (Washington), and the winners were mainly members of a new generation of fundamentalists, many clerics, who espouse a rigid version of Islamic law and oppose any engagement with the West. Having bested their pragmatic rivals, they now seem intent on out-hawking each other on both domestic and foreign issues.

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