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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/2/16

Why the Iranian elections were a huge success

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Reprinted from RT

Iran elections
Iran elections
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It's no less than extraordinary that in last weekend's elections in Iran, Team Rouhani's opponents -- especially the anti-nuclear deal hardliners -- were giving a resounding "shellacking" (Obama's term) in Tehran.

They virtually vanished as representatives of the capital, not only at the Majlis (Parliament), but also at the slightly Orwellian-denominated 88-member Assembly of Experts, which will choose the next Supreme Leader and currently oversees Ayatollah Khamenei.

There's simply no ultra-conservative/hardliner featured among the 30 elected parliamentarian members in Tehran (their leader, Gholam Ali Adel, clocked at 31st). The winners were provided by the so-called "List of Hope"; that's how former President Mohammad Khatami defined the pro-reform candidates.

Yes, never underestimate the wisdom of Iranian voters.

Why does Tehran matter so much? Because the elected representatives of the capital are those who dictate the political direction of the Majlis.

At the Assembly of Experts, the three key ultra-conservatives were also shellacked. Prime among them is Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a.k.a. "The Crocodile" and Chief Inquisitor of any reformist "sedition."I once tried -- in vain -- to interview him at his seminary in Qom in 2006; he refuses to talk to foreign journalists. It's key to remember that Mezbah Yazdi was the spiritual mentor of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Also shellacked was ultra far-right Mohammad Yazdi. And finally, and very significantly, Ayatollah Janati, the head of the Council of Guardians -- which had conducted the selection of candidates to these twin elections, duly invalidating countless figures judged "too critical"of the "system."

The bottom line is that the Assembly of Experts is now centrist -- still far from reformist; President Rouhani himself and former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a.k.a. "The Shark," attracted the most votes, alongside 57 other centrists.

Slow, gradual, and no agitprop

All of the above only happened because of an extremely strong mobilization in Tehran of the liberal, middle class young vote and the female vote. Young Iranians -- men and women -- after all compose the majority of voters -- and the majority of the population. If they had a collective mantra, it would be something like, "Enough of the hardliners" -- whose intolerance has only contributed to increase Iran's isolation from the West.


The "shellacking" is also due to the still phenomenal popular appeal of Khatami -- he of "dialogue of civilizations" fame, always supported en masse by women and the youth, as much as he is hated like the plague by the ultra far-right, the unelected cogs in the complex Iranian political machine. If there was a moniker to define the Khatami appeal, it would be his embodiment of popular trust in reform.

A pragmatic/centrist Parliament will be a boon to Rouhani in his quest for economic opening -- even though the pragmatist/centrists will remain a minority compared to the Khomeinists.

That's because rural, provincial Iran is over-represented in the parliament; for instance, the country's eight biggest cities, where the pragmatist/centrists did very well, concentrate more than half of the population, but account for only 57 of the 290 seats in parliament.

So now it will be up to horse-trading. The Tehran pragmatist/centrists will have enough room to seduce many a pragmatic conservative to cooperate with them in parliament for the national benefit. That will exclude, of course, the ultra far-right, which was against the nuclear deal and is not exactly keen on Iran's economic and cultural opening to the West (Asia is another story, which is centered on business.)

What the elections' results produced already is renewed interest by potential European investors in the highly promising Iranian market. Iran needs at least $50 billion in foreign capital a year, according to a five-year-plan presented by the Rouhani government in January.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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