Majlis Candidate Registration Sees Increased Participation from Women, former Ahmadinejad Ministers

The upcoming elections to Majlis could see higher numbers of candidates from several interesting groups – provided that these candidates have their files approved by the Guardian Council. Among the significant applicants for parliamentary election candidacies are former Ahmadinejad ministers and markedly increased numbers of female applicants when compared to previous elections.

The ‘Yekta Front’: Friends of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President of the Islamic Republic, has lost his support base among many members of the conservative faction. In an attempt to be included in one of the lists of candidates for the conservatives’ faction in elections to Majlis, the ‘Paydari Front’ (or ‘Steadfast Front’) has denied any affiliation with Ahmadinejad and his close circles, despite supporting him in the past.

Similarly, in his interviews, Ahmadinejad has repeatedly emphasized that he has no plans to participate in presidential or Majlis elections. However, his former ministers have formed a coalition under the name of the ‘Yekta Front’ and have announced their plans to participate in the upcoming elections to Majlis. Seyed Mohammad Husseini and Mohammad Abbasi – both former ministers in Ahmadinejad’s government – registered their candidacies at the Interior Ministry in order to run in the parliamentary elections. A number of other ministers, governors, and city officials who were all key figures in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration have entered the race for the upcoming elections to Majlis.

Increased Women’s Participation in the Parliamentary Elections

Sousan Safaverdi, Mohammad Ali Ramin’s wife and the former Deputy for Women in the Centre for International Affairs in the Office of the President, has registered to participate in the 10th Majlis election. Tayebeh Safaie, former MP in the 8th Majlis, has also decided to participate in the upcoming elections to Majlis. Moreover, a significant number of women more generally have sought registration as candidates for the next elections, and these women are mainly affiliated with the so-called reformist faction.

A campaign under the name of “transforming the male-dominated image of Majlis” has recently been launched by a number of activists who are seeking to pave the way for women to have more seats in Majlis. The positive and negative reactions to this campaign have yet to arise. We witnessed a number of female MPs in the most recent Majlis who were strongly opposed to the presence of women in sports stadia, and who harshly reacted to similar issues at the same time that they were mainly affiliated with the conservative faction or those close to the ruling system. The approbation supervision implemented by the Guardian Council (the right reserved by the Council to accept or reject candidates’ qualifications and/or the legality of election results) may disqualify most of the reformist and progressive female candidates. As a result, more conservative women will likely take seats in the next Majlis, and potentially pass laws that involve the imposition of more rights violations and restrictions on women.

The reason for why the ruling authorities of the Islamic Republic have so far not confronted the ‘Transforming’ campaign and its activities is that the officials in the power circles of the Islamic Republic are willing to qualify female candidates close to the ruling circle and pave the way for their election to Majlis. As a result, officials can claim that they have welcomed the message of the ‘Transforming’ campaign and have increased the number of female MPs in Parliament. The ruling system and female MPs who are affiliated with the conservative faction have made other attempts to challenge the presence of women in public life, for example in sports stadia, and have displayed strong opposition towards similar demands from women’s rights activists. Moreover, individuals active in efforts like the ‘Transforming’ campaign have been punished under broader security crackdowns.

Women’s participation in the upcoming elections to Majlis and the Assembly of Experts has considerably increased. However, it is yet not clear how many female candidates will pass the discerning eye that is the Guardian Council’s supervision of the electoral process.