Just a month ago, he was describing his administration as the
most successful in the history of the Islamic Republic. Next week,
however, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to fire several key
members of his Cabinet. The reason? The slap in the face he has
received from Iranian voters in the simulacrum of elections organized
Before the first round of polling, the "Supreme
Guide" Ali Khamenehi had spoken of "a new vote of confidence" in the
Khomeinist system. Ahmadinejad himself had described voter-turnout as a
test of his administration's popularity.
What happened, however, was not what either man had expected.
by the final official data just published by the government, and
available on the Web site of the Islamic Ministry of Interior, this was
the lowest voter turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic in a
parliamentary election, especially in urban areas.
eligible to vote in the first round numbered almost 50 million.
However, the total number of those who voted was 22,832,000, a
suspiciously round figure, about 46 per cent of eligible voters,
according to the Interior Ministry.
From that total, one must
deduct almost two million votes, described as "wasted." These are
ballots that have been torn, doodled upon or have names other than
official candidates added. According to Interior Ministry sources,
thousands of ballots had "indecent slogans" scribbled on them.
in Iran are not supervised by an independent commission, as is the case
in genuine democracies, and candidates are not allowed to post
observers at polling stations.
Even then, the latest exercise offers a number of interesting lessons.
The first is the implicit popular rejection of the Khomeinist system, especially in urban Iran.
some cities, notably the national capital Tehran, those who voted
accounted for fewer than 20 per cent of the eligible. Average voter
turnout in the main cities of Iran's 30 provinces was just over 30 per
In Tehran, that figure fell to just 19 per cent. Even
then, most of those elected in Tehran in the first round won less than
25 per cent of the votes. Ghulam Haddad Adel, the current Speaker of
the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), Iran's ersatz parliament,
topped the poll with just over 840,000 votes out of almost 10 million
eligible voters. That is no more than 8.4 per cent of Tehrani voters.
similar pattern was seen in Mash'had, Isfahan, Shiraz, Ahvaz and Rasht,
provincial capitals where the Khomeinist establishment received a
In Abadan so few voters turned up that the authorities had to cancel the first round and order a re-run.
official figures are believed, the Khomeinist system retains a popular
base in rural areas and some small towns but would lose big in all
cities with a population of over 100,000.
The second lesson of
the election is the growing isolation of the regime in parts of Iran
where ethnic and/or religious minorities predominate. Voter turnout in
the province of Kurdistan, where almost half of Iran's four million
ethnic Kurds live, did not exceed 25 per cent.
In the province
of Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's estimated 1.8 million ethnic
Baluchs, most of them Sunni Muslims, fewer than 20 per cent voted.
inhabited by Turkmens and the Taleshis, most of them Sunni Muslims,
also experienced what amounted to a massive boycott. In Hashtpar, the
stronghold of the Taleshis on the Caspian Sea, only 12 per cent voted.
The third lesson is that candidates least identified with the authorities did better than those known as committed Khomeinists.
supporters, representing the most radical faction, will have a majority
of the seats in the new Majlis. Most of them, however, were elected
with fewer votes than those independent candidates who also manage to
Candidates identified with the "loyal opposition" also won
with a better margin. If the independents and " loyal opposition"
figures did not end up with a majority, the reason is that they were
not allowed to field enough candidates.
This means that a
majority of Iranians would rather not vote for any candidate approved
by the regime and that of those who do vote a majority would prefer
candidates least identified with the system. Judging by the results of
the first round, 67 per cent of the seats in the next Majlis will go to
newcomers. This is a massive no confidence vote against the incumbents
who claim to have given the moribund revolution a "second breath."
A more detailed sociological study of the results could take weeks to complete.
But the first assessments reveal a number of interesting facts.
Chief among these is that dislike of the authorised candidates is common to Iranians from all walks of life.
extent of the boycott was such that one cannot claim that only the
better-educated and better-off middle class voters decided to stay
home. It is clear that Khomeinism as an ideology has also lost some of
its appeal among the poor and illiterate masses.
The message is
clear: Most Iranians don't want Khomeinism and, if forced to choose
only among Khomeinists, would go for the least committed.
But what if they are allowed a choice between Khomeinists and non-Khomeinists?