Iran Pivots Toward Democracy As Moderates Sweep Elections

Tyler Durden's picture

In what amounts to a referendum on President Hassan Rouhani’s leadership, voters in Tehran turned out overwhelmingly for moderates in closely watched parliamentary elections that may serve as an important signal for where Iran is headed.

Pro-Rouhani candidates are set to sweep all 30 of Tehran’s parliamentary seats. The 290-member body is dominated by hard-liners, but that looks set to change under the President, whose decision to negotiate with the US over the country’s nuclear program was an enormous political gamble.

“The early victories and reports of a high turnout spurred claims of victory on social media by activists and media who share Rouhani’s ambition of overhauling the post-sanctions economy with the help of foreign investment and perhaps easing some social restrictions,” Bloomberg notes. “Yet to secure control of the legislature and confront entrenched conservative power in other governing institutions like the judiciary, the president will need similar wins nationwide.”

Turnout was high, which would seem to indicate that younger voters came out en masse to support the President’s agenda. The vote comes a year ahead of Presidential elections where Rouhani might well seek a second term. Iran should “use international opportunities to start a new chapter in the growth and blossoming of the national economy,” the President said on Saturday.

Of course the groundswell of support for Rouhani-allied parliamentary candidates is only partially relevant. The Guardian Council - which decides who can run and also approves laws passed by parliament - is the ultimate authority and it’s overseen by the Ayatollah. Out of some 12,000 people who tried to run for parliament, 6,000 were disqualified by the Council which has 12 members, half of which are appointed by the Ayatollah and the the other half by someone who the Ayatollah appoints.

As WSJ notes “moderates were also dominating in Tehran for the 88-member Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that will choose a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.” Here's a bit more from al-Arabiya:

The Assembly of Experts consists of 86 clerics who are elected by the people. Nevertheless, before anyone is permitted to run, they are vetted by the hardline organization; the Council of Guardians. The 12 members of Guardian Council, are appointed directly (six members) and indirectly (nominated by the head of Judiciary) which, in return, is appointed by the supreme leader.



Without a doubt, the 12 members of the Guardian Council owe their position to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, represent the agenda of Khamenei, and disqualify any one whose viewpoints are not in alignment with Khamenei. For example, the Guardian Council even banned the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Hossein Khomeini, from running for a seat in the Assembly of Experts.

"Together, Friday’s two elections could play a major role in shaping the country’s direction, amid deep ideological differences over the wisdom of opening up to the international community," WSJ goes on to note. 

Maybe, but not really. No one should be duped into believing that the IRGC and Khamenei aren't in control of these elections. They're willing to let the people express their political preferences to a certain degree but the way the system is structured, wresting power from the Ayatollah really isn't possible. 

But at least Iran has the trappings of democracy. The Saudis don't even bother to pretend. 

In any event, the results - which are incomplete - do indicate one thing: the Ayatollah understands the importance of giving at least some say to the people. That say is subject to dictatorial veto everywhere and always, and that's not democracy but at least the whole show isn't run by a family of fanatical Sunni oil barons hell bent on exporting ultra puritanical Islam. 

Imperfect? Yes. Rigged? Probably. Preferable to the political systems adopted by all of Washington's Mid-East allies? Definitely. 

Ultra-conservatives are on the back foot, but not defeated," Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the New York-based International Crisis Group said. 

Right. And they never will be "defeated." But they do understand that modernity requires a certian deference to democratic ideals, i.e., the US establishment which suddenly is opening up its loanbook checkbook for Iranian firms and consumers. 

Which is more than you can say for the Gulf monarchies.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
DownWithYogaPants's picture

I never know what to believe about Iran.  I doubt anyone will ever give me a straight story either.  Bunch fucking globalists.

cossack55's picture

If they defy DC        +3

if they defy NATO     +5


(I know, samethingy)

Baby Bladeface's picture
Baby Bladeface (not verified) cossack55 Feb 28, 2016 11:02 AM

Iran can not be true democracy, because Iran is a state disloyal to US Department of State. State Department defines democracy who is and who is not.

How does it come that can Iran be a democracy? It is like if in Middle Ages, enemies to the Pope and would call them Christians. It is not possible.

If government of Iran will disregard the people and align closely to the US government, censorship impose, demonstrators shoot, conduct mass arrests and without trial imprison, then they will have the right to be called a democracy.

At least in so-called "respectable" media...

KesselRunin12Parsecs's picture
KesselRunin12Parsecs (not verified) Baby Bladeface Feb 28, 2016 11:06 AM

Xerxes for President!... (his horse, for Secretariat of State)

Fukushima Sam's picture

As always Iran is the story of ancient Persia beseiged by foreign influence.  The invaders continue to chip away but as long as that core classical Persian view of life exists the Muslims and the Christians cannot win, only hope to co-exist as an overlay to the true Persian underneath.

If you don't know what I mean read some Hafez, he reflects the true culture of Iran.

blabam's picture

It's just a farce election, Mullahs still in charge. A big % of young Iranians want to westernise but of course the Islamic rulers do not want to do that. Meanwhile:

"The entire male population of a village in Iran has been executed for its alleged role in drug trafficking, according to an Iranian cabinet minister."

caconhma's picture

It appears that Iranian voters have more choices, more opportunities, and more freedom to elect their representatives than American voters.

Marco's picture

She wasn't talking about a specific village which was recently depopulated of men in a mass execution, it was just a single sentence in a larger piece about the treatment of families of executed/imprisonened men. Auto translate turns it into this :

"We have rustic in Sistan and Baluchistan, which all the village men have been executed."

Middle Pillar's picture

"It's just a farce election"

Unlike the honest-to-goodness non farce elections we enjoy in the west.

Shad_ow's picture

This true.  It has always been and alwasy will be.  The illusion of democracy is just that.

Disc Jockey's picture

I'd love a chance to travel in Iran. Rick Steves' video there made me realize that in many ways they're actually one of the most civilized middle-eastern countries. It's a beautiful country with a rich history (many previous empires: Persian, Alexander the Great, Romans, Mongols, Turks, etc.) And hey don't blow up historic sites for fun but actually protect them as we do ours.  Pretty much always assume anything coming out of the mouth of a polictician or news anchor is a lie. This is how I've been operating for years now and usually being a contrarian just means you're ahead of the curve.

Rick Steves' Iran:


"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these account. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Innocents Abroad, Roughing It

xrxs's picture

Excellent people, the Iranians.  The theocratic totalitarianism they live under, not so much.

samsara's picture

It's like the truth about anything. You must do your own research. Cast you net wide on your reading. Correlate, weigh, and form a informed opinion.

BarnacleBill's picture

Talk like this quite takes me back - to when a female companion and I hitched through Iran in the 1960s, from the Turkish border down to Shiraz and out to Kuwait. What wonderful hospitality we encountered along the way! Not markedly better than what we received in Turkey and the Arab countries, because they were all excellent. They are fine people(s), over there; it upsets me to hear ignorant criticism of them.

boattrash's picture

Looks like "W's" plan is finally working!


DownWithYogaPants's picture

And Barry OButtboy's carrying them through.

Obama is just another Bush only worse.  Three Bush presidents. Lucky us!

The Merovingian's picture

Get ready for a 4th Bush-y POTUS .... one that likes to eat Bush ..... If only I were talking about Trump. Sigh ...

rwe2late's picture

So, apparently

"democratization" can be better achieved by

the USA & co. NOT invading, bombing to rubble, and arming jihadist 'rebels'?


Who wudda thought?


[Now, if the USA would  quit arming and supporting various

despotic, jihadist, apartheid, and fascist governments -

perhaps including even its own ...]


DownWithYogaPants's picture

Uncle Sam wishes he knew how to quit bunga bunga'ing everyone.

Never ceases to make me chuckle.  Name chosen = Brokeback mountain ......very similar in sound to "Bareback mounting"

JustObserving's picture

It would be great if the land of the free would pivot towards democracy as well, away from the Deep State running it today:

Who rules America? 

The secret collaboration of the military, the intelligence and national security agencies, and gigantic corporations in the systematic and illegal surveillance of the American people reveals the true wielders of power in the United States. Telecommunications giants such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and Internet companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, provide the military and the FBI and CIA with access to data on hundreds of millions of people that these state agencies have no legal right to possess.

Congress and both of the major political parties serve as rubber stamps for the confluence of the military, the intelligence apparatus and Wall Street that really runs the country. The so-called “Fourth Estate”—the mass media—functions shamelessly as an arm of this ruling troika.

Essay: Anatomy of the Deep State

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.


Haole's picture

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

Given an informed, aware and engaged populace, mutually beneficial democracy can flourish.  Surrounded by programmed sheep, one is an utter fool to promote democracy.  Everyone's MMV...

Trump is a sign of change but in my opinion, people are going to be very, very surprised what they get if he becomes installed.  He could well be yet another establishment kick in the teeth for the average person who is supporting him in "hopes of changes".  Bottom line, stuck?  He may be great for the country too, who knows?

Trump has flown on the the "lolita express", after all...  Wake-up people.

"We learn from history that we do not learn from history." - Georg Hegel

rwe2late's picture

 You are correct to criticize any who promote "democracy" superficially

(especially as mere voting).


However, such criticism does not apply to the promotion of democracy

along with the conditions (some of which you pointed out)

necessary for "democracy"  to properly function.

samsara's picture

" but in my opinion, people are going to be very, very surprised what they get"

Yes my fear is that his supporters will be as surprised as Obama's supporters were that they got Bush's 3&4 term.

11b40's picture

But America is a Constitutional Republic. Our democratically elected leadership is supposed to be in place to lead within the bounds of the Constitution.
Anytime you hear someone refer to America as a Democracy, they should be corrected. Words matter.

samsara's picture

Great post as always JO.

Keep it coming. (Clapping hands).

Wish we had a emoticon for clapping hands. I'd use it on all of yours

Proctologist's picture

Believe this: practically speaking, they have more in common with us than any of the Saudi Arabian leadership.

That being said, ever since our 1953 foreign-policy blunder, they haven't exactly trusted us. Wonder why?

MSimon's picture

Using 10 year old boys for mine clearance (Iran-Iraq war) does not exactly inspire confidence either. Not to worry. Any boys killed went to heaven. They were given the keys in advance.

One Eyed Jack's picture

Yes morally superior using 17-18 year old boys for bullet stoppers.

GreatCaesar&#039;sGhost's picture

Murdering 10 year old boys playing soccer on the beach doesn't inspire confidence, either.

Infinite QE's picture

That's the reason these scum join the IDF.

scaleindependent's picture

Come on, they were "fun size"!


Please stop being so critical of American drone pilot patriots doing a highly stressful but yet critically important job for the  Fatherland, ahem, Homeland. 

Real American heroes  need an occasional R&R while doing dangerous maneuvers. For example, they need all the sexual release obtained from bombing weddings, hospitals and "Fun sized"  7 year old terrorists.

You should celebrate their bravery as they fly a drone over 10,000 miles away from the uncomfortable heat of Dallas Texas.



MopWater's picture

Yeah, weapons supplied by the US to Saddam against them evil Iranian devil's...seriously fucked up they used them to clear mines, but the US has the blood on its hands...sickens me.

Cycle's picture

This article at Saker, while it applies to Syria, gives some hope that truth is now emerging in the MSM, which is the sine qua non for a change in US foreign policy, since I believe most Americans would be outraged by the tangled webs of lies and deceit.  Entitled: Is there a crack in the dam holding back the truth on Syria. 

ThirteenthFloor's picture

+1 Cycle. I would add this is primarily a result of a careful strategic play by Russia in Syria, which started only 20 weeks ago. Which is well summarized in this article on The Saker from the 24th. The seven points are to be well taken.

falak pema's picture

I am not the Saker but I would shake his hand on that as that in essence what I have said here since 5 years :

Pax Americana, intiated by the Dulles Bros; ramped up by JFK assassination and what followed; has made the MIC/OIL/$ combination the three rotten ropes tying US hegemony to Saudi Oil, in a new Gordian knot making the Wahhabist rampage and ME mayhem become the price that the world pays for buying Ghawar oil under the US imperialist gun.

Its time for the US to remember Jefferson and leave imperialism and fossil to go back to idealism and democratic republic of the people.

Make America whole again; not moar hubristic.

Make the world move to a new eco healthy and renewable paradigm that stifles the $ Casino.

One Eyed Jack's picture

A populist democracy that is not instituted, directed or forced upon a sovereign populace by the US? Well fuck if this isn't a pretext for a US invasion and occupation.

After all how will US business be able to survive if they can't force their shitty products, poisonous food, and social justice horse shit on people that don't want it.

_ConanTheLibertarian_'s picture

If this democracy thing is not forced upon by the US it would almost be like a first.

roadhazard's picture

Pivots toward democracy.... uh you really think so. heh The Eyeitolahs middle name is Mitch McConnell.

NoWayJose's picture

Now if only the US could kick out the hard line global interventionists like Obama, Kerry, Hillary, and W!

MSimon's picture

The birth rate in Iran averages about 1.6 per woman. Break even rate is about 2.1 per woman.

MSimon's picture

So wait. Let me see. These guys have figured out how to stay in power even with elections?


Well that is an improvement.

ISEEIT's picture


Remember: prezident el bozo be playin' chess not checker!

Duc888's picture




They're doing it all wrong.  You can't have a REAL legitimate democracy unless Uncle Sham drops his Democracy bombs on you.  Look at Trashcanistan, Libya and Iraq as examples.

Wahooo's picture

Do the Saudis hold elections?

rahtidmon's picture
rahtidmon (not verified) Wahooo Feb 28, 2016 10:13 AM

yes, they are called beheadings

rahtidmon's picture
rahtidmon (not verified) Feb 28, 2016 10:13 AM

LOL, those votes don't count, there is a supreme theocratic leader at the top, talk about selected.

What a joke.