Electoral posters and a banner featuring Qasem Soleimani in Tehran. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

The narrowing of Iran's political spectrum will be demonstrated on Friday in parliamentary elections dominated by hardline candidates.

Driving the news: An estimated one-third of sitting parliamentarians were disqualified from participating, reformists were barred en masse, and boycotts are expected from portions of the increasingly disenfranchised population.

Why it matters:

  • For Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, having more hardliners at the helm of different institutions as he enters the eighth decade of his life is an insurance policy against change from within.
  • For hardline politicians, the conservative consolidation will make capturing the presidency in 2021 even easier.
  • For Hassan Rouhani, the current president, it will confirm his lame-duck status
  • For the Iranian people, who have been increasingly willing to protest since 2017, it is proof that change will not come through a highly-controlled “ballot-box.”
  • For Washington, although the parliament does not decide foreign policy, more hardliners will likely mean a more confrontational approach, especially on the nuclear issue.

Where things stand: Iran’s unelected Guardian Council, which vets candidates for elected office, disqualified just over half of the over 15,000 people who registered to run for the 290 seat Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis, in Persian).

  • Should some seats remain vacant, a second round of voting will be held in the spring.
  • This will be Iran's 11th parliament since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

What they’re saying: Khamenei has played to both Islamist and nationalist sentiment in a bid to get out the vote, going so far as to call voting a “religious duty.” He told Iranians to vote even if they don’t like him.

Flashback: The Islamic Republic also used the 2012 parliamentary vote — which followed a disputed presidential contest — to consolidate power and spin participation as a show of support during a critical time.

The bottom line: Faced with increasing domestic unrest and Washington’s ongoing maximum pressure campaign, Iranian authorities are looking to use the election to signal strength abroad by alleging popularity at home. If turnout is as low as expected, that will send the opposite message.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Go deeper

Exclusive: Cruz calls for criminal investigation of Twitter

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in a letter Friday to the Justice and Treasury departments, is calling for a criminal investigation of Twitter over allegations the company is violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Why it matters: Twitter is already under fire from President Trump for adding fact checks and a warning label, respectively, to misleading and incendiary tweets he made in recent days. Cruz's letter adds another dimension to the tech company's woes in Washington.

Updated May 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Texas Supreme Court blocks mail-in expansion to all voters

Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that "a voter's lack of immunity to COVID-19" doesn't qualify them to apply for a mail-in ballot because it's "not a 'disability' as defined by the Election Code."

Details: The court denied the request of the state's Republican attorney general to stop local election officials from sending vote-by-mail ballots because a voter's lack of immunity to the coronavirus does not constitute a disability. The judges were confident clerks "will comply with the law in good faith."

Updated May 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

FEC commissioner refutes Trump's voter fraud claims

Federal Election Commission Ellen Weintraub during a committee hearing in the Capitol in 2017. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Federal Election Commission commissioner Ellen Weintraub posted an extensive fact-checking thread to Twitter late Wednesday debunking claims by President Trump and some Republicans that mail-in voting can lead to fraud.

Why it matters: Weintraub weighed in after Trump threatened to take action against Twitter for fact-checking him on his earlier unsubstantiated posts claiming mail-in ballots in November's election would be fraudulent, and she directly addressed Twitter's action against the president in her post.