Feb. 26, 2016
- Will Iran’s Elections Matter? – Sohrab Ahmari
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is staging an election on Friday. There will be ballot boxes and voter lines, and Western journalists will be granted rare access to cover an event the regime is keen to portray as a legitimate democratic exercise. Yet every candidate has been screened by layers of security men and hand-selected by Islamic jurists. Half of the original 12,000 candidates for the 290-seat Majlis were disqualified ahead of the election, as were 75% of the 801 candidates for the 88-member Assembly of Experts – including Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Even if every single disqualification were reversed, however, it wouldn’t matter a wit, since the regime’s popular branches are subservient to its unelected institutions. Above them all sits the supreme leader, and the pre-election purge means whoever succeeds Mr. Khamenei is likely to share his views on all important matters.
Herein lies the perverse genius of the Islamic Republic. It encourages outsiders to treat the regime as something other than a theocratic dictatorship. Western officials, and many Iranians themselves, hope that the regime’s periodic elections might finally empower men who will moderate Tehran’s behavior. Yet it’s been 37 years and the hard-liners – who run the armed forces, the repressive apparatus, the nuclear program, the judiciary and the state-run media – are tightening their grip and flaunting their enduring primacy. (Wall Street Journal)