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Reformists Warn of "Self-Destruction" as Conservatives Consolidate Power

Prominent Reformist figure and former president Seyyed Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) has warned (June 13) that Iran’s conservative-dominated Majlis (Parliament) is targeting “republicanism” in the Country.

Khatami charged that a bill drafted by the Majlis (Parliament) to amend some articles in the Election Law of the Islamic Council "will render polls devoid of meaning" And termed it a "movement towards self-destruction." Khatami said the bill seeks to consolidate "wrong procedures," such as empowering the Guardian Council, tasked with vetting candidates. During the Majlis debate on the law, majlis members warned that it would give the Guardian Council sweeping powers to disqualify non-conservatives from seeking a seat. Even candidates who have been approved and won seats may eventually be disqualified.

Khatami strongly criticized the decision to grant the Guardian Council additional powers, mainly due to its widespread disqualification of pro-reform candidates who aspired to participate in the upcoming 12th parliamentary elections of March 1, 2024, and future presidential elections. This move by the Guardian Council effectively hindered the chances of reform-minded individuals to run for office, undermining the democratic process and limiting the choices available to the electorate. Khatami's concern lies in consolidating more authority; the Guardian Council has reinforced its ability to manipulate the composition of political candidates, thereby influencing the outcomes of crucial elections and perpetuating a lack of genuine political diversity.

He warned that The Islamic Republic of Iran is "moving further away from republicanism" and Khatamithat if "people's votes and opinions" are not respected, the republic's establishment جمهوریت نظام will move toward “toppling itself.”

Khatami added that repeatedly, it had been emphasized that the significant predicament endangering Iran's future and the fate of its people is the gradual deviation from the practical implementation of the republican system while increasingly relying on an Islamic vision and perspective.

Seyyed Mohammad Khatami emphasized that discretionary monitoring and wrong procedures in the election process are among the factors that make elections ineffective. He said that instead of monitoring the elections from the position of defending the rights and votes of the people, the Guardian Council had intensified its guardianship over the people and their votes.

Khatami expressed his concerns that the ongoing deliberations between the Parliament and the Guardian Council regarding electoral matters aim to establish and legitimize flawed procedures that create crises and undermine the true essence of the electoral system. He emphasized that instead of expecting corrective measures in terms of structure, approach, and behavior to salvage the Country and improve the lives of its citizens, there seems to be a growing inclination towards self-sabotage.

Khatami urged all political activists, intellectuals, and those who care about the nation, mainly those loyal to the ideals of the revolution, to undertake the following actions:

  1. Caution the authorities and individuals involved about the additional peril that is being compounded with past challenges.

  2. Raise public awareness about this impending danger.

  3. Refrain from engaging in legal or civil actions that could potentially exacerbate the problem and harm the people's interests in finding a resolution.

Another former president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, also has stressed the importance of people's votes. Rouhani said that the people's vote is the only way to create hope and faith in the future. He also said that the solution to all the Country's problems lies in referring to Islam's morals and the people's opinions.

Rouhani emphasized that the people's vote is essential for the Islamic Republic to be meaningful. He said losing in a competitive election is better than winning in an uncontested election.

Rouhani called on the government to ensure that people's voices are heard. He the government should allow everyone to speak their opinion on radio and television, as long as they do so by Islamic standards and the Country'sCountry's interests.

Reza Nili, the editor of the Nemayandegan website, which covers news and analysis about the Iranian Parliament (Majles), predicted that the turnout in the next parliamentary election would likely be as low as 15 percent in the capital Tehran. The turnout in the latest round of parliamentary elections 2020 was just over 26 percent in Tehran, the lowest ever.

The conservatives in Iran currently control all the centers of power in the Country, including the army, the government, and the Parliament. Since the election of President Raisi, the Iranian media has been criticizing the previous governments of Khatami and Rouhani for their approach to the West and their failure to bring prosperity to Iran, especially after the signing of the nuclear agreement. Conversely, they glorify the achievements of Raisi's government, which has managed to advance the nuclear program and improve while improving Iran's regional and international oil exports despite the sanctions.

Although the parliamentary elections in Iran are still a considerable time away, there are already signs of awakening within the Country, particularly among the reformists marginalized from positions of power. They are striving to regain control over even a tiny part of the centers of power in Iran. The anticipated low voter turnout in the elections will signify the people's loss of hope in the institutions of the Islamic regime, as emphasized by Iran's former presidents.

If the Guardian Council dismisses most reformist candidates as it has done in the past, the turnout is expected to be low, setting a new record for low participation. The regime is primarily concerned about its legitimacy in the face of such a low turnout. Moreover, a low voter turnout would reflect another form of protest by the Iranian people, who have faced severe and continuous repression for their attempts to voice dissent against the regime and address the economic situation. Furthermore, unrest within Iran may resurface in the lead-up to the Majlis elections, fueled by awareness of the contradictions within the system and the conservatives' tightening grip on the foundations of government with the assistance of the Guardian Council.

Voter turnout in the 2024 Majlis elections will likely be low, further solidifying conservative legislative dominance for another four years. Khamenei might permit some pro-reform candidates to run in the next presidential election to increase participation. However, it is also plausible that he will continue suppressing dissent and maintaining the existing status quo.

Movement towards self-destruction


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