U.S. on Iran’s Parliamentary Election

The Trump Administration criticized Iran’s election process as the nation prepared to vote on a new parliament on February 21. On January 16, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that the poll was rigged. “The Iranian regime consistently lies to the Iranian people and treats them with contempt,” he said. “Now it is barring thousands of candidates from running for parliament in a massively, publicly rigged election.” U.S. officials have focused particularly on the heavy vetting of candidates by the 12-member Council of Guardians, an appointed body of six clerics and six specialists in Islamic law.

In the first phase of the election process, the Guardian Council disqualified about two-thirds of the 14,500 candidates—including 90 of the 247 incumbent lawmakers seeking reelection—in January 2020. The percentage of candidates who have been allowed to run has fluctuated widely since the first election in 1980. In 1992, 85 percent of candidates made it through the vetting process. In 2016, just 51 percent, a record low, were allowed to run. “The Iranian people know they have little to say in these sham elections, which are meant to deceive the world that Iran is a republic and not an autocracy,” said Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran. The following are comments by U.S. officials.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

“Staying on Iran: This weekend, the Islamic Republic held another rigged parliamentary election.  The United States heard the Iranian people’s disgust at their government’s repression.  We’ve had people send in messages from all across the country.  One Iranian said, quote: “I will not vote.  Voting means that we give legitimacy to this corrupt regime.  We won’t cooperate with them in its crimes.” Another said, quote: “I have not voted in my life and I will not vote for this corrupt mafia system at all,” end of quote.

The United States stands with the Iranian people.  We will continue their support their voices.  These are people who are desperately eager to be heard in a free and fair election.”

—Feb. 25, 2020, in a press briefing


"Today, the United States designated five members of Iran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee who have played a role in denying Iranians their right to free and fair elections. This includes Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the Guardian Council, who has in the past praised the killing of political dissidents and previously called on Iranian authorities to execute even more of them.   

"Clerics like Jannati have deprived the Iranian people of a real choice at the ballot box for the last 41 years. The officials designated today were appointed by or are associated with Iran’s unelected Supreme Leader. They oversee an electoral process that silences the voices of the Iranian people and limits their political participation. In advance of Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections on February 21, the Guardian Council blocked more than 7,000 candidates from even running. Many of them were Iranians who questioned the Supreme Leader’s policies. This process is a sham. It is not free or fair. 

"The Iranian people oppose this regime’s brutality at home and its violent misadventures abroad. They deserve the opportunity to express their opinions without being marginalized or massacred. The voices of the Iranian people must be heard. The United States continues to stand with the proud people of Iran and we echo their calls for free and fair elections."

— Feb. 20, 2020, in an official press release



Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook


QUESTION:  Do you think that the new parliament, when it is seated after tomorrow’s elections, no matter what its makeup, no matter if it’s a little more or way more conservative than the current makeup, will have any effect on what diplomacy is like with the United States?

MR HOOK:  I doubt it, because the day after the elections the supreme leader is still going to be in charge, and the supreme leader is the supreme leader for a reason.  It is – I think other administrations have gotten a little bit too preoccupied with this interest in identifying the moderates in the regime, and I think that can lead to some very bad policy making.  And so we judge the regime on the basis of what it does, not on the basis of who may or may not have influence within the government.  It is a violent, revolutionary, expansionist regime, and it is the principal driver of instability in today’s Middle East.  We have put in place a foreign policy that reflects this reality. 

And the majlis, now that they’ve disqualified any of the moderates who would like to run, but even if you do have moderates in the majlis, the supreme leader still gets to decide everything.  He has a small group of people who make those decisions.  And so we don’t get distracted by this question of moderates and hardliners.  If you’re in the regime, you’re a hardliner. 

—Feb. 20, 2020, in a press briefing


“The regime has elections coming up next month, and these elections are a charade.  Of the 247 sitting parliamentarians running for re-election, 90 were disqualified by an unelected Guardian Council.  The same council also disqualified 9,000 of the total 14,000 candidates.  The Iranian people know they have little to say in these sham elections, which are meant to deceive the world that Iran is a republic and not an autocracy.”

—Jan. 17, 2020, in remarks to the press


State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus