First elections since the 2022 demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini

Iran holds parliamentary elections amid protests, doubts and control by the ayatollahs' regime

El líder supremo de Irán, el ayatolá Alí Jamenei, camina para hablar después de depositar su voto durante las elecciones parlamentarias y al órgano clerical clave en un colegio electoral en Teherán el 1 de marzo de 2024 – PHOTO/ATTA KENARE/AFP
photo_camera Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walks to speak after casting his vote during parliamentary and key clerical body elections at a polling station in Tehran on March 1, 2024 - PHOTO/ATTA KENARE/AFP

The Islamic Republic of Iran holds parliamentary elections after many months of protests and with doubts about citizen participation in the elections. 

  1. Tight control by the ayatollahs' regime

These are the first parliamentary elections since the beginning of the strong demonstrations following the death of young Mahsa Amini in September 2022 after the arrest by the Morality Police, who accused the young woman of wearing the Islamic veil incorrectly. 

Some 15,000 candidates are running for seats in the 290-member national parliament. Terms of office are for four years and five seats are reserved for the country's religious minorities. 

Iran's supreme leader, 84-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was among the first to vote in an election that also elects representatives to the country's Assembly of Experts. The religious leaders, who are already serving an eight-year term, must select a new supreme leader if Khamenei resigns or dies, a question that is relevant now given Khamenei's advanced age.

Khamenei encouraged people to vote and sent a message to both supporters and enemies of the Iranian regime. "Make friends happy and enemies despair," the Iranian supreme leader said. 

Líder Supremo de Irán, el ayatolá Ali Jamenei, observa durante una reunión en la exhibición de logros de la Fuerza Aeroespacial del IRGC en Teherán, Irán, el 19 de noviembre de 2023 - Oficina del Líder Supremo iraní WANA (Agencia de Noticias de Asia Occidental) vía REUTERS
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei looks on during a meeting at the IRGC Aerospace Force achievements exhibition in Tehran, Iran, November 19, 2023 - Iranian Supreme Leader's Office WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Tight control by the ayatollahs' regime

The first results of the elections are expected on Saturday, although no surprises are expected in terms of the political workings of the Iranian nation. By law, the parliament controls the government and votes and decides on important issues, so in practice absolute power in Iran rests with the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei. 

The Iranian regime has tightened its more conservative policies in recent times and the parliament has been controlled by the regime's most hardline faction for a couple of decades. 

This more radical sector of Iranian politics has led to greater conservatism in the nation, which must follow religious precepts to the letter. An example of this was the fatal outcome of Mahsa Amini, who lost her life after being singled out by the Morality Police for wearing the veil incorrectly. This event led to strong popular protests demanding more freedom, but the Ayatollahs' regime cracked down hard. The protests demanded the overthrow of Iran's clerical rulers. The subsequent crackdown by Iranian security forces resulted in the deaths of more than 500 citizens and the detention of more than 20,000 people, according to various reports over the past few years. 

Una manifestante sostiene un retrato de Mahsa Amini durante una manifestación - AFP/OZAN KOSE
A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration - AFP/OZAN KOSE

At the international level, Iranian power has also reinforced its belligerent and interventionist policy in the Middle East region. While there is a stream of Arab countries that have opted to pacify and develop the region through the famous Abraham Accords of 2020, by which several Arab nations such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco established diplomatic relations and agreements of all kinds with Israel, under the auspices of the United States, The Islamic Republic of Iran has opposed all this by pursuing a destabilising attitude that is linked to interventionism in other countries through related Shiite groups, such as the Houthis in Yemen, where the bloody war against the legally established power continues, Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Popular Mobilisation Forces in neighbouring Iraq. 

All of this is in stark contrast to Iran's great enemy, which is the United States, precisely the driving force behind the Abraham Accords. These pacts could be joined in the future by Saudi Arabia, which is the main standard-bearer of the Sunni branch of Islam, as opposed to the Shia branch represented by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and which has already had various political rapprochements with Israel in recent times.