Iran held elections this week for its Parliament and its Assembly of Experts, which chooses the next Supreme Leader, and the clear winners were supporters of President Hassan Rouhani. The outcome seemed to bolster the Obama administration’s conviction that the nuclear deal with Tehran could signal a path toward moderation and improved relations with the U.S.
But while the reform camp virtually swept the elections in Tehran and several prominent conservative clerics were defeated, it should also be noted that nearly half of the candidates for the Parliament were disqualified prior to the election by the hardline Guardian Council. And well over half of those seeking a seat on the Assembly of Experts were not permitted to run.
So much for democracy in Iran, which has no political parties and an all-powerful Supreme Leader who can determine the candidates allowed to seek office. In addition, some individuals on the moderate list also ran on the hardliner slate, and it should be noted that the key elements of the government are still firmly in control of the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guards.
What’s more, “moderate” is a relative concept in Iran, where some of the winners have spoken out in the harshest anti-Semitic language against Israelis, deriding them as being inhuman.
With it all, though, in an election seen as the first test at the ballot box of the nuclear deal, the outspoken critics of the pact were the losers. So while there will be no practical change at this time in the way Iran does business at home or abroad, there are some positive signals that the electorate, long believed to be far more sympathetic to the West than its rulers, is giving whatever voice it can toward moderation. May it continue.