On 02 March 2012 the Islamic Republic of Iran conducted its ninth election for its legislature, the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis. Government officials had predicted a voter turnout of between 60-65%, while the opposition, predominantly supporters of the Green Movement, had predicted a lower turnout of between 40-45%. Preliminary results appear to indicate that voter turnout in large urban areas, particularly Tehran, are around the lower end of the spectrum near 40%, while voters in smaller urban and rural areas have turned out in larger numbers. Given the preponderance of large urban areas in terms of population and representation in the Majlis however, this may be an indication that voter turnout was much lower than the regime had hoped.
In Iran’s parliamentary elections an eligible voter can cast a ballot for one or more candidates depending on the number of Majlis seats assigned to their electoral district. In the Tehran electoral district, a demographically and symbolically crucial region with 30 out of the 290 seats being contested, the Principalist Unity Committee appears to have won 17 seats, followed by the Persevering Front of the Islamic Revolution which won 11 seats, and the Critics of the Tenth Administration Front with two seats. However, each candidate in an electoral district must capture a quarter of the total votes there, which early reports indicate only 10-15 candidates have done. This means that between 15-20 of the remaining Majlis seats in the Tehran electoral district will now be contested via a second round of run-off elections. Candidates who won in the first round of voting in Tehran include such prominent figures as Hadad Adel, who came in first place, Ali Motahari, and Ahmad Tavakoli. The necessity of holding a second round of run-off elections may be a result of the failure of the Principalist faction to present a sufficiently united front, resulting in a large number of Principalist electoral lists chasing a limited number of votes. The Reformists, who have been systematically filtered out of the political system, may win a number of seats, but are not expected to be a considerable force in the Ninth Majlis. As votes continue to be counted nationally over the next few day, the larger picture of which group will dominate the legislature for the next four years will become much clearer.
While the seemingly low voter turnout in these elections may have been perceived as a victory for the opposition, the decision of ex-President Mohammad Khatami, a key Green Movement supporter, to vote in these elections has cast a shadow over the Green boycott campaign. Khatami, who had pledged not to participate in the elections unless certain criteria were met, including the freeing of political prisoners and free and fair elections, has broken his own promise and delivered yet another blow to the opposition Greens who have been struggling since the severe repression that followed the controversial 2009 presidential election. While Greens had called on Iranians not to leave home on election day as a sign of their opposition to the regime, it appears that one of the Green Movement’s most potent symbols has broken ranks and decided to re-enter the fold of the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, an ex-president and head of the Expediency Council, and Hossein Khomeini, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s grandson, also appear to have voted, further indication of the deepening cracks between opposition Pragmatists and some Reformists on the one hand and the Green Movement on the other.