Iran has initiated the registration process for candidates participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for March. Marking the first such elections since the country witnessed nationwide protests last year.
Since the Islamic Revolution 1979, Iran has regularly conducted both presidential and parliamentary elections. However, candidates are subject to vetting by a clerical body, which disqualifies those perceived as disloyal to the Islamic Republic. Additionally, the final authority on significant policies lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The protests were initially sparked by the tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code. Subsequently, the demonstrations evolved into demands for the overthrow of the ruling clerics. Posing one of the most significant challenges to their four-decade rule.
Impact of Disqualifications on Previous Elections
Authorities responded with a severe crackdown, resulting in the death of more than 500 protesters, with nearly 20,000 others detained. Leading to the eventual decline of the protests. Recently, the morality police resumed street patrols to enforce the compulsory wearing of the headscarf, known as the hijab.
The registration process for parliamentary candidates has begun, and contenders have a week to pre-register online. Marking the initial phase of a monthslong selection procedure. However, all candidates must ultimately be approved by the Guardian Council, a 12-member clerical body. Half of whom are directly appointed by the supreme leader.
During the previous elections in 2020, over 7,000 candidates were disqualified, with nearly half of those aspiring to run being rejected. This contributed to the lowest voter turnout since 1979, with just over 42% of eligible voters casting their ballots.
The country has been grappling with a severe economic crisis, triggered by the United States’ withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the reimposition of crippling sanctions under then-President Donald Trump’s administration. The devaluation of the Iranian currency has resulted in the erosion of many citizens’ life savings and a surge in prices. As a consequence, analysts believe that the majority of Iranians are preoccupied with basic needs, leaving little energy for political protests.
Notably, Iran, which initially adhered to the 2015 nuclear deal, is now actively advancing its nuclear program. It has openly surpassed the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment and stockpiling. While also constructing a deeply underground atomic facility, potentially rendering it immune to U.S. military action.