Iran will today hold run-off parliamentary elections. In the first round of voting on February 21, conservative forces won a
Iran will today hold run-off parliamentary elections.
In the first round of voting on February 21, conservative forces won a sweeping triumph in a rebuke against the relatively moderate policies of President Hassan Rouhani. Seeking to revitalise Tehran’s lacklustre economy and provide better opportunities for Iran’s disgruntled youth, Rouhani staked his career on the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that lifted crippling Western sanctions in return for a moratorium on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite heavy criticism from conservative circles, hope of a more open, economically resuscitated Iran propelled centrist forces to victory in the 2016 parliamentary elections.
The reintroduction of eviscerating US sanctions following the Trump administration’s unilateral disengagement from the JCPOA in May 2018—over the objections of Washington’s European allies—kneecapped Rouhani and fellow moderates. The ensuing economic crisis and unprecedented domestic turmoil set the stage for a conservative backlash.
The rejection of the candidature of over 7,000 aspirants, mainly moderate and reformist incumbents, indicates that the new parliament will serve as a rubber-stamp for the hardline establishment. Despite the ostensibly intransigent stance parliament will take against the West, opportunities for engagement will persist. Conservatives who ran on the slogan of “Save Iran’s economy” are aware that an economic reprieve will factor into victory in the June 2021 presidential elections and that an overly confrontational stance will achieve little in that regard.
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