Iranian Elections and why they mean very little

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s allies failed to dominate elections for a powerful Iranian clerical body and local councils, early results showed on Sunday, in what analysts said was a setback to the president’s standing.

Friday’s twin elections for the clerical Assembly of Experts and local councils, the first nationwide vote since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, will not directly impact policy.

But turnout of around 60 percent and Ahmadinejad’s close identification with some candidates, particularly in Tehran, suggested a shift in the popular mood towards more moderate policies and away from the president’s ultra-conservative line.

Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel and anti-Western statements have worried the West, which fears Iran is seeking an atomic bomb despite Tehran’s denials. Western countries would welcome any sign the populist president’s support had weakened.

“The results show that voters have learned from the past and concluded that we need to support … moderate figures,” the daily Kargozaran said in an editorial.

Kargozaran is close to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate cleric who state media said led the count in Tehran for the Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential race.

Here is a bit more about the Iranian Government from the CIA World Factbook:

Chief of State: Supreme Leader Ali Hoseini-Khameni (since 4 June 1989)
Head of Government: President Mahmud Ahmadinejad (since 3 August 2005);       First Vice President: Parviz Davudi (since 11 September 2005)
Cabinet: Council of Ministers selected by the president with legislative approval; the Supreme Leader has some control over appointments to the more sensitive ministries
note: also considered part of the Executive branch of government are three oversight bodies:

  1. Assembly of Experts, a popularly elected body of 86 religious scholars constitutionally charged with determining the succession of the Supreme Leader, reviewing his performance, and deposing him if deemed necessary;
  2. Expediency Council or Council for the Discernment of Expediency is a policy advisory and implementation board consisting of permanent and temporary members representing all major government factions, some of whom are appointed by the Supreme Leader; the Council exerts supervisory authority over the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and resolves legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians disagree;
  3. Council of Guardians or Council of Guardians of the Constitution is a 12-member board of clerics and jurists serving six-year terms that determines whether proposed legislation is both constitutional and faithful to Islamic law; the Council also vets candidates for suitability and supervises national elections. 

And a bit more on the Council of Guardians:

Its members are composed of Islamic clerics and lawyers. Six members of the Council are clerics selected by Iran’s Head of State. The other six members are lawyers proposed by head of the judicial system of Iran (selected in turn by the Supreme Leader), and voted in by the Majlis. Members are selected for six years on a phased basis, so that half the membership changes every three years.

The Supreme Leader has the power to dismiss the members of the Guardian Council.

So while Iran may call itself an Islamic Republic in reality it is nothing more than a theocratic dictatorship where all policy and philosophical decisions start and end with Ali Hoseini-Khameni. 

The western Media may be calling this weeks vote in Iran a rejection of Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric. In reality it means far less, since none of the candidates could have been candidates without the approval of the Council of Guardians and Khameni. 

Others Blogging:

Not A Pundit with  Iran Will Carry On Nuclear Program Even If Sanctions Come

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