However, the exact makeup of the 10th parliament still remains unclear, with different media outlets reporting different figures, as well as attaching different levels of significance to the results. Expresion Economica merely says, for instance, that the List of Hope, or so called moderate/reformist faction that is associated with President Hassan Rouhani received between 33 and 40 seats in the runoffs.
The New York Times claims that that faction has now earned a total of 122 seats, but the Associated Press says that the “moderates” have 143 seats, the hardliners have 86, and a separate independent faction has 61. The Times’ figure would mean the Rouhani-affiliated faction has about 42 percent of the entire parliament, which several reports have referred to as a “working majority,” and sufficient to “comfortably pass Rouhani’s legislative plans,” according to the Big News Network.
If the AP is correct in its breakdown of the new parliament, it still means that the List of Hope falls short of an actual majority, albeit by only three seats. NPR explains the discrepancy in reporting on these results in terms of the peculiarities of Iranian politics. Specifically, it notes that political factions are vaguely defined and do not have the sort of consistency of political positions that one sees in party systems like in the United States.
Because of this, individual members of the Rouhani faction, as well as its competitor factions, are free to change their positions on any given piece of legislation. And in fact they are likely to do so, because as NPR also points out, a number of candidates in this year’s elections were actually backed by more than one faction at the same time.
This was a source of serious criticism of the List of Hope by certain reformist politicians and their civilian supporters. These individuals accused their supposedly reform-minded compatriots of betraying reformist platforms by aligning themselves with highly conservative political colleagues in order to fill out the List of Hope.
Such criticisms suggest that there will be lingering questions about the nature of the incoming parliament, regardless of the exact breakdown of the results and whether it is actually sworn in in its current form. This is also somewhat in doubt because, as NPR points out, the runoff results are still awaiting certification by the Guardian Council, which is tasked with vetting all candidates to high office, as well as all legislation, for consistency with the Iranian regime’s interpretation of Islamic principles.
The Guardian Council was already credited with removing the vast majority of would-be reformist candidates from the ballot prior to the February elections. And in one instance they nullified the electoral victory of a female reformist after the fact. It remains to be seen whether that latter tactic will be repeated in the wake of the runoff. If it is, the council could still nullify one of the remarkable statistical facts about the results of this year’s national elections.
Agence France-Presse pointed out on Monday that on the basis of the results that have been reported, the incoming parliament will have more women than Islamic clerics for the first time in the 37-year history of the Islamic Republic. Although still a very small portion of the overall body, the female delegation is now set to comprise 17 individuals, almost all of whom have been described as reformists. By contrast, only 16 incoming members are clerics, as compared to a staggering 164 in the first post-revolutionary parliament.
On the surface, this implies a less theocratic bent in Iranian government initiatives in the coming years. But there is still a great deal of disagreement about the significance of the electoral results and about whether they represent any genuine prospects for internal reform. The unquestioned influence of the Guardian Council and the unchecked authority of the office of Supreme Leader are factors in this, as is the lack of any recognizable measures taken by President Rouhani to fulfill the reform-minded campaign promises made prior to his 2013 election.
Some of Rouhani’s supporters believe that the latest electoral results will give him the freedom to pursue goals that were previously constrained. But those results do not change the fact that the regime has the power to block political efforts with which it disagrees. The Islamic Republic has previously elected presidents who were credited with reformist agendas, but many Iran note that these elections tend to lead to a corresponding pushback from hardliners, thereby enforcing the nation’s Islamist agenda regardless of lower-level political changes.
Although the loss of clerics in the parliament seems remarkable, AFP also points out that it is part of an ongoing trend. Since 1980, each parliament has had fewer clerics than the last, and yet none of them have managed to pass legislation that might be called secular, such as reforms to religiously justified laws on capital punishment, which contribute to such overuse of the death penalty that nearly 1,000 people were hanged in 2015 alone, under the supervision of Rouhani’s supposedly moderate administration
On February 28, following the first round of the regime’s elections, Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance’s President-elect, said that a glance at the list of candidates presented by the regime’s various factions left no doubt that the election was not genuine and that the choice was merely between different factions responsible for suppression, execution, exporting terrorism, warmongering, and plundering the Iranian people’s wealth.
Mrs. Rajavi emphasized that the election result would not bring any serious change to the Iranian people’s political and economic livelihood and would have no consequential winners within the clerical regime. The real loser is the ruling theocracy in its entirety. In view of the crisis raging at the apex of the ruling elite and considering the Iranian people’s ever-increasing anger and hatred, the regime has taken a qualitative step toward being overthrown, she said.