The Sham of Iranian Elections: The Supreme Leader Still Reigns Supreme
REZA PARCHIZADEH 5-30-16
Reza Parchizadeh is an Iranian-born political theorist and activist. He is the co-editor-in-chief of TahlilRooz, a Persian-language think thank. Reza has authored five books and many articles, both in English and Persian.
With the election of Ahmad Jannati as chairman of the Iranian Assembly of Experts and Ali Larijani as parliament speaker, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once again proved that it is he who reigns supreme. Jannati and Larijani are both members of his camp, and regarded as part of his inner circle.
The hardline Jannati, 90, secured 51 of the 86 votes cast, and has been a regular member of the Assembly of Experts for the past couple of decades. Furthermore, since 1992, he has chaired the overwhelmingly powerful Guardian Council, the non-elective body whose members are installed by the Supreme Leader in a complex process, and whose task is to vet candidates in all sorts of “elections,” as well as oversee the passage of laws in the Majlis (the parliament) so that they don’t violate the wishes of the Supreme Leader.
In addition to Jannati, Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, another hardliner, became Assembly of Experts first deputy; and Mohammad Hashemi Shahroudi, yet another hardliner, became second deputy. The Assembly of Experts is the political body whose supposed task is to “oversee” the acts of the incumbent Supreme Leader and to “elect” the next one.
On the other hand, Ibrahim Amini, whom the centrist/reformist/moderate bloc had supported for the chairmanship, managed to secure only 21 votes. Amini was not even elected to the board of directors of the Assembly.
It is to be noted that Amini himself is a so-called conservative, and therefore closer to the hardliners. He had indeed been put on the list of their candidates by both the conservatives/hardliners and the centrist/reformist/moderate bloc.
Former president Hashemi, a moderate, advocated on Amini’s behalf — presumably to no avail. Hashemi himself explicitly endorsed the elections by saying that “the election of the board of directors was conducted very properly… It was done fast and in a peaceful environment, clear of any dispute.” However, Hashemi’s unquestioning approval of the results flies in the face of the truth: that Jannati was hand-picked.
Khamenei immediately welcomed Jannati’s election, calling for the Assembly’s “accurate and all-encompassing protection of the Islamic and revolutionary identity of the nation, and management of the intertwined apparatus of the Islamic system.”
Less than a week later, Larijani, yet another conservative, was re-elected to the post that he has continuously held since 2008. Larijani received 173 out of the 281 votes cast. His centrist/reformist/moderate rival, Mohmmad-Reza Aref, only received 103 votes. The reformist, Masoud Pezeshkian, with 154 votes, and the conservative, Mohammad Dehghan, with 136 out of the 279 votes cast, became the first and second deputies of the parliament. The tentative board of directors is also populated with an assortment of major conservative characters.
Larijani, 58, comes from an exceedingly influential clan of conservatives, whose other members also hold high positions in the Islamic Republic. Sadeq is chief justice of Iran and a member of the Assembly of Experts; Mohammad-Javad is a top foreign-affairs adviser to the Supreme Leader; and Bagher and Fazel have held various important posts so far.
Like Amini, Larijani had also been supported by both the hardliners/conservatives and the centrists/reformists/moderates, but he chose to thank only the former after his re-election. These eccentricities all demonstrate the vagaries of the convoluted process of “elections” in a country whose government is an “Islamic Republic.”
As I explained many times prior to and following the February elections, elections in Iran are generally a sham, and these recent elections were in particular a total fraud. There is no difference in principle between the hardliners/conservatives and the centrists/reformists/moderates. The role of the Assembly of Experts in electing the next Supreme Leader is more nominal than real, and the Majlis has absolutely no say in the higher affairs of the state. Therefore, the whole process is only a showcase for the media and the outside world.
However, giving the chair of the Assembly of Experts and the parliament to two individuals close to the Supreme Leader has “symbolic” significance. It shows us that Khamenei is fearful of his future, and therefore has resolved to assign his own men to the high offices of the state. This will lead to more terror, violence and bloodshed. Simply put, it means more executions, more intervention, more “Export of Revolution,” and more “Death to Israel” and “Death to America.”