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Election Results 1: Parliament

Garrett Nada and Katayoun Kishi 

The resounding message from voters on February 26 was a rejection of hardliners and an endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani. The largest faction in Iran’s new Parliament will be an array of moderates, conservatives and independents, who won more than half of the seats decided in the first round. Several dozen seats, which did not meet the threshold of 25 percent, will be contested at a run-off in April. So far, some 68 percent of lawmakers in the new Parliament will be newcomers, according to Shargh DailyThe vote may help Rouhani push forward long-stalled promises of reform opposed by hardliners, who have dominated the last three parliaments, since 2004. 
 
The election turnout was 62 percent, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. The election was the first since the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers concluded in July 2015. In the meantime, diverse Iranian media outlets have reported the story as if their preferred political groups did well in the election. Media and monitoring groups differed over the distribution of seats. The following is a rundown of key winners and losers. 
 
   
 
The Winners
 
The Universal Coalition of Reformists, dubbed the “List of Hope” by former President Mohammad Khatami, won the second largest number of seats nation-wide. In Tehran, the group won all 30 seats. The list was headed by Mohammad Reza Aref, a former presidential candidate and a vice president under Khatami. It blended in centrist supporters of President Hassan Rouhani from the “Alliance of Reformists and Government Supporters.” The list associated itself with the success of the nuclear deal, the lifting of international sanctions, and increasing normalization of Iranian political and economic relations with the outside world. It also supported greater personal and political freedoms. Its logo and slogan was “the second step,” or the sequel to Rouhani election in 2013. For this coalition, the election was also a referendum on the direction the country has taken under Rouhani. 
 
Many reformist candidates were disqualified by the 12-man Guardian Council, so the coalition was dependent on lesser known candidates. Endorsements from former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as well as Khatami gave the List of Hope a key boost.Khatami, whose image is banned from the media, issued a handwritten message about the elections. The following are excerpts:
 
  • “The impressive attendance of people during the Assembly of Experts and Parliament elections has this message that people want to preserve security, advance the country, and strengthen the system.”
  • “People want action on the slogans and plans that our honorable president has offered, and the people have voted for this.”
  • “…it is the administration and other branches of government, and in particular the honorable representatives of the people’s, turn to serve these people and meet their demands, in particular to attempt to develop the economic boom, open up people’s lives, and create an open space and healthy politics.”  
 
 
The group also tapped a few high-profile conservatives, such as Ali Motahari and Kazem Jalali—who ran with other slates as well. Motahari is a moderate conservative lawmaker who has criticized the government for putting the two Green Movement leaders and former presidential candidates under house arrest. Motahari actually fielded his own independent list called “Voice of the Nation.” In an interview before the elections, he said that hardliners do not place enough emphasis on freedoms while reformists do not pay enough attention to cultural issues.
 
In one of the quirks of the campaigns, Motahari also appeared on the reformist List of Hope, but he said the group added his name at their request. At a campaign rally, on February 23, he called for the removal of the “artificial wall” between reformists and principlists. Motahari has taken hardline stances on social issues. For example, he has opposed allowing women to enter sports stadiums. But he has also challenged policies of Iran’s security services and hardliners. In 2015, he spoke out against the widespread arrests of journalists by the Revolutionary Guards. In January 2016, he opposed the presence of Basij militia units in residential areas.
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who ran as an independent, won his seat from the holy city of Qom. On February 29, as election results were announced, he praised the rotation of political power from one group to another as an auspicious development. Larijani has referred to himself as a principlist, but he was largely supportive of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Larijani chose not to join the main list of hardliners. “I feel our friends in the [conservative coalition] have not provided the necessary mechanisms for the creation of unity…Therefore we seek to act independently,” he said. Yet he won the backing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, who cited Larijani’s long support of “revolutionary movements.”
 
Women won 14 seats in the first round of the election—a record high--and are in the running to win as many as six more in the runoff. Nine women are in the outgoing Parliament. Of the 14 who have secured seats, eight ran on the “List of Hope.” 
 
Parvaneh Salahshori, who won as a reformist on the “List of Hope,” said women should be allowed to choose whether or not to wear the hijab, a sensitive subject in the Islamic Republic. She criticized conservative female lawmakers who have supported legislation restricting women’s rights.  She also “We want to empower our women, we want to empower our young people,” she told Italian journalist Viviana Mazza on February 29. “We are here to fight against [gender] discrimination.”
 
The main conservative list, the Grand Coalition of Principlists (which refers to support for a rigid interpretation of revolutionary principles) won more seats than any other group outright. Conservatives, however, will not have nearly as much sway over the next Parliament as compared to the last 12 years. The hardliners were largely opposed to Rouhani’s policies. Principlists campaigned on Rouhani’s failure to deliver on promises of economic benefits from a nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions.
 
The list’s slogan was “Livelihood, Security, and Progress.” It appeared on yellow banners at rallies and posters across the country. Unlike reformist candidates, the Guardian Council approved a large number of conservative and hardliners. As a result, candidates from the conservative list contested seats in provinces across Iran. One campaign poster in Isfahan asked voters which political faction they would rather have protecting them if ISIS fighters entered Iran.
 
The Losers
 
In Tehran, the Grand Coalition of Principlists failed to win any seats. It was headed by Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, a member of parliament since 2000 and the first non-cleric to become speaker, in 2004. He has close ties to the supreme leader, as his daughter is married to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba. In a tweet, Haddad-Adel said that he was happy about the joy of fellow citizens who voted for his rivals. 
 
In the picture below, Haddad-Adel leaves Parliament through a door marked “exit.”
 
 
Esmail Kowsari, a prominent lawmaker and member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, was also on the list. During the nuclear negotiations, he criticized the approach of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In 2014, he attended a conference entitled “We’re Worried” – advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak deal”— held at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Kowsari later accused the negotiating team of wasting the country’s time. Now that he has lost his seat, he has suggested that the results are “suspicious.”
 
 
Other candidates on the list included former advisors to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and outspoken critics of President Rouhani. They emphasized their economic backgrounds, with ten candidates who held senior economic positions in previous governments. They were hardline on foreign policy. Adel once warned against allowing American influence to permeate Iran’s economy and society. "Unfortunately, some [moderates] are embracing America and opening their arms to American companies,” he said. Six women were on the list of 30 candidates. 
 
 
 
Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer, and Katayoun Kishi is a research assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
 

 

Election Results 2: Assembly of Experts

Cameron Glenn

Hardliners suffered a serious setback in Iran’s election for a new Assembly of Experts, a body of 88 clerics and scholars tasked with overseeing and appointing the supreme leader. Candidates aligned with former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and current President Hassan Rouhani, who have urged reforms in the past, won major gains. Senior clerics backed by reformists and centrists – but who are not necessarily reformists themselves – won 59 percent of seats in Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the Interior Ministry reported. They previously only held around 23 percent of the clerical body.
 
The Assembly of Experts has served largely as a rubber stamp organization. But this election could be significant since the supreme leader, who has been in power a quarter century, is now 76. The next supreme leader also may emerge from the new Assembly, which is comparable to the College of Cardinals in its powers to select the top religious authority. The supreme leader has the last word on political, economic and social life as well as national security issues. In December, the Assembly reportedly began drafting a list of potential successors.
 
Around 62 percent of Iran’s eligible voters participated in the elections. The following is a rundown of election results reported, as of February 29. The Guardian Council must approve the election results.
 
 
The Winners
 
In Tehran, reformist-backed clerics won 15 out of 16 seats, ousting two key hardliners. Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani placed first in the race for the 16 available seats in Tehran. Rafsanjani, who served as president from 1989 to 1997, was known for taking a pragmatic approach to domestic and foreign policy and attempting to end Iran’s isolation. Rafsanjani is rumored to be a contender to be Iran’s next supreme leader.
 
Rafsanjani led an informal coalition of centrists and moderate conservatives known as the "People's Experts" list during the election. But like many other candidates, he ran on several other electoral lists as well, reflecting the fluid affiliations and wide range of political views in Iran's system.
 
 
Rafsanjani emphasized that hardliners should respect the election results. "No one has the power to resist the will of the majority of the people and whomever people don't want must step aside," he said on social media on February 28.
 
Mohammad Agha Emami, Tehran’s interim Friday leader, came in second place in Tehran. He ran on Rafsanjani’s “People’s Experts” list, as well as lists associated with the more conservative Combatant Clergy Association and Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom. President Hassan Rouhani, who also ran on Rafsanjani’s electoral list, placed third in Tehran. Allies of Rafsanjani and Rouhani secured 11 other seats in Tehran.
 
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati was the only hardliner to secure one of Tehran’s Assembly seats. He finished last, in 16th place, among the candidates who won seats. Jannati also chairs the Guardian Council, the powerful clerical body that vets candidates in Iran’s elections as well as all legislation to ensure it is compatible with Islam.
 
 
 
The Losers
 
In Tehran, two key hardliners – both of which had been potential contenders to replace Supreme Leader Khamenei – lost their seats in the elections. Assembly of Experts chairman Mohammad Yazdi finished in 17th place, just missing the cut off for Tehran’s 16 available seats. Yazdi had served as deputy speaker of parliament after the 1979 revolution and judiciary chief in the 1990s. He had defeated Rafsanjani in a vote for the Assembly’s chairmanship in March 2015, after the death of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani.
 
 
Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, one of the Assembly’s most hardline clerics, finished in 19th place and also lost his seat. He had strongly opposed Rafsanjani and his supporters in the Assembly of Experts. He was known as a spiritual mentor to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most hardline of Iran’s presidents.
 
After the hardliners' loss, Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani charged that foreign governments had influenced the outcome. He accused moderates of forming a “British list” and cooperating with foreign media to defeat hardliners. “Is this type of coordination with foreigners in order to push out these figures from the Assembly of Experts?” Larijani said. The allegations prompted a retort from Vice President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht. "We don't have anything such as a 'British list',” he said. “If anyone wants to say that there is such a list, they are in fact insulting the Guardian Council.” 

 

 

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Election Day in Iran! Color and Tweets

Iranians went to the polls on February 26 to elect a new Parliament and Assembly of Experts at a pivotal time in the Islamic Republic’s history. The following are snapshots of different aspects of the day — leaders voting, reformist and centrist turnout, hardliners at the polls, youth and women turnout, religious minorities, and commentary.
 

Top Leaders Vote 

Rouhani compared voting to a great business deal, saying that one hour of work yields four years of profit.

Former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist whose image is banned from the media, was mobbed at the polling station by supporters.
Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar (below) is also head of the Environmental Protection Organization. “The high voter turnout today will give Iran strong leverage in economic and political ties with the world,” she tweeted.
 
 
 
Reformists and Centrists

Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, and Mehdi Karroubi, a former speaker of parliament, were candidates in the 2009 presidential election who led protests against the disputed reelection of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The two Green Movement leaders, who have been under house arrest since 2011, reportedly requested mobile ballot boxes. Karroubi’s son told Reuters that his father had not yet had the opportunity to vote despite his decision to do so.
 
 
Hardliners and Conservatives
 
Lawmaker Mehdi Koochakzadeh was booed by people when he tried to skip a long line of voters. 
 

 
Youth Turnout
 

 
Women Vote
 
 
Maryam, a principilist voter, said she wants a more closed social or cultural environment. She asked, “How can it be more open than it already is?”
 
Religious Minorities Vote
 
 
Commentary
 
None of Iran’s official news agencies, other than the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), reported on Khatami’s voting due to the judiciary order banning him from being shown in the media, according to Sobhan Hassanvand and Rohollah Faghihi

 

 
 
Offbeat
 
 
 
Foreign Influence
 
 
The Vote Itself
 
 
Electronic voting machines were used for the first time at some polling sites.
Tags: Offbeat

UN Report on Nuclear Deal Compliance

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has released its first quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program after the deal went into the implementation phase on January 16. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) noted that Iran briefly exceeded the 130 metric ton limit on its heavy-water stockpile as stipulated in the agreement. Tehran, however, reduced the 130.9 tons back below the limit by shipping out 20 metric tons. The report was short but detailed Iran’s compliance with specific aspects of the deal. The following are excerpts from the report.

Activities Related to Heavy Water and Reprocessing
 
Iran has not pursued the construction of the existing Arak heavy water research reactor (IR-40 Reactor) based on its original design.12 Iran has not produced or tested natural uranium pellets, fuel pins or fuel assemblies specifically designed for the support of the IR-40 Reactor as originally designed, and all existing natural uranium pellets and fuel assemblies remained in storage under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 3 and 10).
 
Iran has continued to inform the Agency about the inventory of heavy water in Iran and the production of heavy water at the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP)14 and allowed the Agency to monitor the quantities of Iran’s heavy water stocks and the amount of heavy water produced at the HWPP (para. 15). On 13 and 14 February 2016, 20 metric tonnes of heavy water was verified and sealed by the Agency in preparation for its shipment out of Iran. On 17 February, the Agency verified that Iran’s stock of heavy water had reached 130.9 metric tonnes.15 The Agency confirms that, on 24 February 2016, the aforementioned 20 metric tonnes of heavy water had been shipped out of Iran, bringing the stock of heavy water in Iran to below 130 metric tonnes (para. 14).
 
Iran has not carried out activities related to reprocessing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility or at any of the other declared facilities.
 
Activities Related to Enrichment and Fuel
 
Since Implementation Day, 5060 IR-1 centrifuges have remained installed in 30 cascades17 at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz (para. 27).
 
On 23 January 2016, Iran resumed the enrichment of UF6 at FEP.18 Since this date, Iran has not enriched uranium above 3.67% U–235 (para. 28). Iran’s stockpile of UF6 enriched up to 3.67% U-235 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms) has not exceeded 300 kg since Implementation Day (para. 56).
 
Since Implementation Day, 1044 IR-1 centrifuges have been maintained in six cascades in one wing of the facility at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) (para. 46). Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development (R&D) activities at FFEP, nor has there been any nuclear material at the plant (para. 45).
 
Since Implementation Day, all stored centrifuges and associated infrastructure have remained instorage under continuous Agency monitoring (paras 29, 47, 48 and 70). The Agency has continued to have regular access to relevant buildings at Natanz, including all of FEP and the Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant (PFEP), and performed daily access upon Agency request (para. 71).
 
Since Implementation Day, Iran has conducted its enrichment activities in line with itslong-term enrichment and R&D enrichment plan, as provided to the Agency on 16 January 2016 (para. 52).
 
Since Implementation Day, Iran has not operated any of its declared facilities for the purpose ofconverting fuel plates or scrap back into UF6, nor has it informed the Agency that it has built any new facilities for such a purpose (para. 58).
 
Centrifuge Research & Development, Manufacturing and Inventory
 
Since Implementation Day, no enriched uranium has been accumulated through enrichment R&D activities, and Iran’s enrichment R&D with and without uranium has been conducted using centrifuges within the limits defined in the JCPOA (paras 32–42).
 
Since Implementation Day, Iran has provided to the Agency declarations of Iran’s production and inventory of centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows and permitted the Agency to verify these (para. 80.1). The Agency has conducted continuous monitoring, including through the use of containment and surveillance measures, and verified that the declared equipment has been used for the production of rotor tubes and bellows to manufacture centrifuges only for the activities specified in the JCPOA (para. 80.2). Iran has not produced any IR-1 centrifuges to replace those that have been damaged or failed (para. 62) and the Agency has verified and monitored the production of other types of centrifuge and their rotor tubes and bellows (para. 61). All declared rotor tubes, bellows and rotor assemblies have been under continuous monitoring by the Agency, including those rotor tubes and bellows manufactured since Implementation Day (para. 70).
 
Transparency Measures
 
Iran has continued to permit the Agency to use on-line enrichment monitors and electronic seals which communicate their status within nuclear sites to Agency inspectors, and to facilitate the automated collection of Agency measurement recordings registered by installed measurement devices (para. 67.1). Iran has issued long-term visas to Agency inspectors designated for Iran as requested and provided proper working space for the Agency at nuclear sites and facilitated the use of working space at locations near nuclear sites in Iran (para. 67.2).
 
Iran has continued to permit the Agency to monitor - through measures agreed with Iran, including containment and surveillance measures - all uranium ore concentrate (UOC) produced in Iran or obtained from any other source, and reported by Iran to the Agency. Iran also provided the Agency with all information necessary to enable the Agency to verify the production of UOC and the inventory of UOC produced in Iran or obtained from any other source (para. 69).
 

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Tags: Reports

Amnesty International on Human Rights

In 2015, Iranian authorities “severely curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, arresting and imprisoning journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists and others who voiced dissent, on vague and overly broad charges,” according to Amnesty International’s annual report on the human rights situation. The following are excerpts. 
 
Freedoms of expression, association and assembly
 
The authorities continued to severely restrict freedoms of expression, association and assembly. They blocked Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, closed or suspended media outlets including the Zanan monthly women’s magazine, jammed foreign satellite television stations, arrested and imprisoned journalists and online and other critics, and suppressed peaceful protests.
 
In August, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced the second phase of “intelligent filtering” of websites deemed to have socially harmful consequences, with the support of a foreign company. The authorities continued efforts to create a “national internet” that could be used to further impede access to information via the internet, and arrested and prosecuted those who used social media to express dissent. In June, a spokesperson for the judiciary said that the authorities had arrested five people for “anti-revolutionary” activities using social media, and five others for “acts against decency in cyber-space”.
 
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi remained under house arrest without charge or trial. Scores of prisoners of conscience continued to be detained or were serving prison sentences for peacefully exercising their human rights. They included journalists, artists, writers, lawyers, trade unionists, students, women’s and minority rights activists, human rights defenders and others.
 
Torture and other ill-treatment
 
Detainees and prisoners continued to report acts of torture and other ill-treatment, particularly during primary investigations mainly to force “confessions” or gather other incriminatory evidence.
 
A new Code of Criminal Procedures, which entered into force in June, introduced some safeguards including central electronic registers of detainees held in each province. However, the new Code did not provide adequate protection against torture and failed to bring Iranian law into conformity with international law and standards. The Code failed to guarantee individuals adequate access to an independent lawyer from the time of arrest, a legal requirement for protection against torture and other ill-treatment. No specific crime of torture is defined in Iranian law and the new Code failed to establish detailed procedures for investigating torture allegations. Moreover, while the Code excludes statements obtained through torture as admissible evidence, it does so only in general terms, without providing detailed provisions.
 
Detainees and sentenced prisoners were denied adequate medical care; in some cases, the authorities withheld prescribed medications to punish prisoners, or failed to comply with medical doctors’ recommendations that prisoners should be hospitalized for treatment.The authorities also frequently subjected detainees and prisoners to prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.
 
Cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment
 
Courts continued to impose, and the authorities continued to carry out, punishments that violate the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment. These were sometimes carried out in public and included flogging, blinding and amputations. On 3 March the authorities in Karaj deliberately blinded a man in his left eye after a court sentenced him to “retribution-in-kind” (qesas) for throwing acid into the face of another man. He also faced blinding of his right eye. The authorities postponed punishment of another prisoner scheduled for 3 March; he was sentenced to blinding and being made deaf.
 
Unfair trials
 
Many trials, including some that resulted in death sentences, were grossly unfair. Prior to trial, the accused were frequently detained for weeks or months during which they had little or no access to lawyers or their families, and were coerced into writing or signing “confessions” that were then used as the main evidence against them in unfair proceedings. Judges routinely dismissed defendants’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in pre-trial detention without ordering investigations.
 
After years of deliberation, the new Code of Criminal Procedures took effect in June. It brought about some improvements, including stricter regulation of interrogations and the requirement that detainees be informed of their rights, but it was seriously weakened by amendments approved only days before its entry into force. These included an amendment that restricted the right of detainees in national security cases to be represented by lawyers of their own choosing during the often lengthy investigation phase; instead, they can only choose a lawyer approved by the Head of the Judiciary. The Code applied the same restriction to suspects in cases of organized crime, which can result in sentences of death, life imprisonment or amputation.
 
Freedom of religion and belief
 
Members of religious minorities, including Baha’is, Sufis, Yaresan (Ahl-e Haq), Christian converts from Islam, Sunni Muslims, and Shi’a Muslims who became Sunni, faced discrimination in employment and restrictions on their access to education and freedom to practise their faith. There were reports of arrest and imprisonment of dozens of Baha’is, Christian converts and members of other religious minorities, including for providing education for Baha’i students who are denied access to higher education.
...
 
Discrimination – ethnic minorities
 
Iran’s disadvantaged ethnic groups, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijani Turks, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen, continued to report that the state authorities systematically discriminated against them, particularly in employment, housing, access to political office, and the exercise of cultural, civil and political rights. They remained unable to use their own language as a medium of instruction for primary education. Those who called for greater cultural and linguistic rights faced arrest, imprisonment, and in some cases the death penalty.
 
Women’s rights
 
Women remained subject to discrimination under the law, particularly criminal and family law, and in practice. Women and girls also faced new challenges to their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Parliament debated several draft laws that would further erode women’s rights, including the Bill to Increase Fertility Rates and Prevent Population Decline, which would block access to information about contraception and outlaw voluntary sterilization. The general principles of another draft law, the Comprehensive Population and Exaltation of Family Bill, were passed in Parliament on 2 November. If enacted, the law would require all private and public entities to prioritize, in sequence, men with children, married men without children and married women with children when recruiting staff. The law also risks further entrenching domestic violence as a private “family matter.”
 
Death penalty
 
The authorities continued to use the death penalty extensively, and carried out numerous executions, including of juvenile offenders. Some executions were conducted in public.
The courts imposed numerous death sentences, often after unfair trials and for offences such as drugs offences that did not meet the threshold of most serious crimes under international law. The majority of those executed during the year were sentenced on drugs charges; others were executed for murder or after being convicted on vague charges such as “enmity against God”.
 
Many detainees accused of capital offences were denied access to legal counsel during the investigative phase when they were held in detention. The new Code of Criminal Procedures repealed Article 32 of the 2011 Anti-Narcotics Law, which had denied prisoners sentenced to death on drugs charges a right of appeal. It remained unclear, however, whether those sentenced before the Code took effect would be eligible to appeal.
 

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