The turning tide in Tehran

By Abdul Manan ’18

Tehran, a charming, urban epicenter of a city, is redirecting political tides inside Iran. The election of reformist candidates from Tehran to the Assembly of Experts, a major political institution in Iran, demonstrates the changing political climate. The revolution that ousted the Shah in 1979 was incomplete till embraced by the streets of Tehran, such is the political stature of the city. The chants heard in Tehran often resonate in the rest of the country, a phenomenon that grants the bygone election immense significance.

In the recent elections for the Assembly of Experts, a body of 88 clerics responsible to nominate the Supreme Leader of Iran, the reformists—or those closely associated with them—won 15 seats out of the 16 reserved for Tehran. This election, usually, would not bear much significance but Iranians are in luck—and so are we. The supreme leader of Iran, who is the commander-in-chief, as well as the religious figurehead of the country, holds the post for life. Current supreme leader and known hardliner Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 76 and ill, making the results of this election even more relevant.

The election results are suggestive of a long-term shift in the Iranian state apparatus. The United States happily watched as the reformists swept the polls in Tehran. Although the election results in subsequent regions have not been as encouraging for the reformists, their massive victory in Tehran signals that the ball of reprioritizing political agenda is well in motion. These elections could potentially result in an Assembly of Experts that is, if not controlled, than at least influenced by reformers. The end game, in my view, could be the election of a supreme leader from amongst the reformist influenced Assembly of Experts, a development that would entirely overturn the political tables in favor of Iran and the United States.

For many outside Iran these results may seem trivial given the entrenched nature of the “deep state,” the Iranian public, however, deserve an acknowledgement. The Expediency Council, responsible for vetting the candidates running for office, works relentlessly to weed out candidates with reformist agendas. Over 95 percent of reformist candidates never make it to the ballot. One can only fathom the scarcity of electoral choice an average Iranian faces. Given such bleak openings for reformists’ agenda to blossom, Iranians persist at it, an act of commitment and bravery that one must applaud. Rejecting the politics of isolation, Iranians are sending a message that is loud and clear.

The current narrative of a two thousand year old Persia has been hijacked by a thirty seven year old regime. Little does the regime realize that beneath the imposed orthodoxy simmers the uncontainable spirit of Persia.