The Iranian government has commenced a "pre-registration" phase for aspirants of the 12th Majlis (parliamentary) election scheduled for March 1, 2024. This revised approach follows increasing scrutiny of the Guardians Council's stringent candidate selection in previous polls, notably sidelining reformist voices and contributing to historically low voter turnout. Following the ongoing unrest in Iran, this upcoming Majlis election is pivotal.
The preliminary administrative process for the 12th Majlis (parliamentary) election- the first election to be held since the start of the recent protest in Iran- termed "pre-registration," started on August 8 in Iran by order of the Interior Minister to the governors and district heads throughout the country.
The process is based on the revised election law, according to which "pre-registration" for those aspiring for a Majlis seat starts August 7 and will continue until August 13. Potential candidates must upload their personal information to an online platform (https://keshvar.moi.ir) that is only accessible within the country. The platform was launched and is run by the Interior Ministry. Failure to take action within the specified time will prevent final registration.
To access the platform, potential candidates must first create an account. They will then be required to upload their personal information, including their name, address, education, certificate of completion of compulsory military service (for men under 50), work experience, and criminal record. Potential candidates must also provide a copy of their national ID card or passport. The Interior Ministry has announced that there will be no extensions to the deadline for registration. If individuals do not meet the specified timeline, they cannot finalize their registration.
Guardian Council spokesman Hadi Tahan-Nazif said that at this stage, only ensure that the individuals meet the basic requirements for standing in the elections set to be held on 1 March 2024, simultaneously with the Assembly of Experts elections (supervising the performance of the supreme leader).
The "pre-registration" is only the first stage. The vetting process at this stage will be carried out under the supervision of the Interior Ministry in coordination with "five authorities" (judiciary, Intelligence Ministry, the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), Law Enforcement Force (LEF), and National Organization for Civil Registration). After that, all qualified applicants will move on to the main registration phase, which is scheduled for October 19-25.
However, the most controversial phase remains the review by the Guardians Council (a 12-member body with six clerical jurist members, who are just and aware of the present needs, and six legal jurist members, who specialize in different areas of law), which also vets candidates ahead of general elections, notorious for its rigorous vetting and history of disqualifying prominent reformist candidates. Such decisions have previously elicited international criticism, with entities like the European Union and the United States questioning the credibility of Iranian elections.
Through the years, the Guardians Council has deemed many deserving candidates ineligible for the Majlis or presidency, often due to reasons unrelated to their qualifications, mainly targeting those from the reformist faction who have voiced criticisms of the regime (Seyyed Mostafa Tajzadeh disqualified from standing as a candidate in the presidential election, 25 May 2021; prominent reformists politician Mahmoud Sadeghi disqualified ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections).
The disqualifications were widely seen as an attempt by the hardliners to consolidate their power in the parliament. The European Union and the United States condemned the disqualifications, saying that they undermined the election's credibility.
Currently, all major power centers in Iran are controlled by conservatives. In light of the intense criticism previously received and the declining voter turnout in earlier Majlis elections, the regime may now be inclined to permit several moderate candidates to pass the screening process. There is an appeals procedure, but it is seen as ineffectual.
In this regard, introducing this new registration stage for those nominating themselves as parliamentary candidates seems designed to lessen the burden on the Guardian Council. This might help decrease the number of applicants the council prevents from participating in the elections.
In essence, the new registration process is intended to streamline the candidate selection procedure, possibly by filtering out ineligible or less suitable candidates at an early stage. By implementing this stage in the process, it appears that the intention is to minimize the total count of candidates that the council would need to review and subsequently disqualify from running.
The 2020 election marked a significant downturn in participation, registering as the least attended parliamentary vote since establishing the Islamic Republic in 1979. Only 42% of the eligible voters cast their ballots in this election. In context, the 2016 election witnessed a notably higher turnout, with 61.8% of qualified individuals participating. The drop from 2016's numbers underscores the decline in public engagement and enthusiasm in just four years and suggests that people felt their vote would not make a difference.
The 2020 election was held amid Iran's economic and political challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, and the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The 2024 election is the first to be held since the recent protest in Iran.