Report

Iran Votes in Parliamentary Election

Iranians turned out to the polls today in large numbers to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections. Voting will determine the composition of the country’s parliament and Assembly of Experts, which may be called on to select a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in their eight-year term. Khamenei urged citizens to vote in ...

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Iranians turned out to the polls today in large numbers to vote in the country’s parliamentary elections. Voting will determine the composition of the country’s parliament and Assembly of Experts, which may be called on to select a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in their eight-year term. Khamenei urged citizens to vote in public remarks this week. “Turnout in the elections should be so high to disappoint our enemies,” he said. “People should be observant and vote with open eyes and should vote wisely.”

Reformist candidates are hoping for a good showing but had their chances of sweeping success dashed weeks ago when Iran’s Guardian Council disqualified many of their candidates. When asked about the consequences of a reformist defeat, former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that “It will be a major loss for the Iranian nation.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told Reuters that the country’s international nuclear agreement will be respected regardless of the outcome of the elections. “They will continue to support the policies that have been adopted leading to the conclusion and successful implementation of the nuclear deal and this will continue,” he told a reporter at his polling place. “Whatever the choice of the Iranian people, it will be respected.”

Syria Prepares for Ceasefire to Begin

With a U.S.- and Russian-brokered ceasefire set to begin in Syria tomorrow, the opposition High Negotiations Committee announced that 97 rebel factions have agreed to abide by the truce. Fighting is continuing as groups jockey for last minute advantage ahead of the freeze, and Russia has stressed that it will continue to strike U.N.-designated terrorist groups during the ceasefire. In remarks last night, President Obama praised the ceasefire agreement as an opportunity to deliver humanitarian aid and allow groups to pivot towards fighting the Islamic State. On Thursday, the United Nations airdropped food and supplies to civilians in Deir al-Zour, which is besieged by the Islamic State.

Headlines

  • Turkish troops that have been operating in northern Iraq for months are shelling Islamic State positions in Mosul, according to reporting by the Telegraph; the estimated 1,000 to 2,000 troops are operating in coordination with Kurdish forces in the area.

 

  • Saudi Arabia blacklisted four companies and three individuals for their connections to Hezbollah; the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the same companies and individuals last year for the same reason.

 

  • Two Turkish journalists who were arrested in November 2015 for reporting on Turkish arms transfers to rebels in Syria were released today when the country’s constitutional court determined their rights were violated; they will still face trial for revealing state secrets in March.

 

  • U.S. intelligence officials are warning of resurgent al-Qaeda groups potentially escalating their operations, especially Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which have been able to capitalize on civil wars Syria and Yemen.

 

  • Mohamed al-Qeq has ended his 93-day-long hunger strike to protest being held in administrative detention without trial by Israel after a deal was reached to end his detention in May after he has recovered in a hospital.

Arguments and Analysis

Iran’s Guardians’ Council has approved a record-low percentage of candidates. What will that mean for the upcoming vote?” (Emma Borden and Suzanne Maloney, Markaz)

“As the number of clerics in the Majlis has decreased, the number of technocrats has grown steadily. All new Iranian members of parliament (MPs) are required to hold an advanced degree; and the number of MPs with experience in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has also increased. Although Majlis members with IRGC experience sat in every parliament, until 2004 their numbers were in the single digits. That year, helped in part by the disqualification of many reformists who were incumbent MPs, at least 16 percent of the seats were won by IRGC veterans. Those numbers have continued to rise. Ali Larijani, who has served as speaker of parliament since 2008, served in the Guard during the Iran-Iraq war. IRGC veterans tend to advocate a hardline stance on foreign policy issues, and in the seventh Majlis (2004 to 2008) they helped steer significant economic opportunities toward Guard-affiliated companies and away from foreign and private investors. On the whole, however, they do not represent a distinct voting bloc on the array of other issues that come before the parliament for debate. For example, Larijani advocated for parliamentary approval of the July 2015 nuclear deal, which some hardline forces opposed. The increased presence of former IRGC members in the Majlis renders the body less likely to investigate issues related to the IRGC or the supreme leader.”

 

Rise and fall of the dream called HDP” (Umit Cizre, openDemocracy)

“As a result, it is reasonable to assume that the chances for the HDP to carry out an effective pro-Kurdish agenda independent of the PKK are slim. At present, the party has lost a considerable segment of its electoral support as well as the new and broader voice of that rebel spirit that for a while, transformed the Kurdish movement into a more ‘Turkified’ multi-issue party. That said, when and if the time for peace negotiations comes, despite its declining fortunes and unclear future, the HDP is still the only notable civilian representative of the Kurdish movement which is capable of sitting at the table and representing a humane and intellectual face for the Kurdish conflict. Placed alongside Turkey’s grim political treatment of the representation of Kurdish interests, the rainbow coalition which the HDP has achieved and the new democratic blueprint it laid out for Turks and Kurds in June 2015 left an indelible mark on Turkey’s imagination and presented an unprecedented leap in its history. In no small measure, its ability to rebound from the deep crisis in which it is engulfed depends precisely on its capacity to reignite the same hopes across the political-social spectrum via its inspiring leader, honest appeal, and a democracy- and citizen-security-centred narrative.”

-J. Dana Stuster

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

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