George Friedman

Iran's parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 2. With most of the reformist politicians banned from participating, the elections are shaping up to be a competition between Iran's two dominant conservative camps: the populists, led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and candidates supporting the clerical establishment, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Though it is unlikely that even a large win for Ahmadinejad's faction would threaten the nature of the clerical regime in the near term, Ahmadinejad is trying to build a movement that can eventually wrest more control from the clerical elite. This election may indicate whether Ahmadinejad has made progress toward that goal.



Analysis

Iran will hold elections for its parliament, known as the Majlis, on March 2. These will be the first nationwide elections since the disputed 2009 presidential contest that saw the rise and swift fall of the reformist Green Movement. With many reformist leaders under house arrest or imprisoned and with the majority of the reformist parties barred from participating, the upcoming elections will be a political competition fought among Iran's conservatives.

The populist conservatives, led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been challenging the clerical elite, led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, since the 2009 election for ultimate control of the state. While the supreme leader's pre-eminent role in the government does not appear to be at risk in the near term -- even if Ahmadinejad's populist faction manages to take the majority of parliamentary seats -- Ahmadinejad hopes to build a movement that can sustain his push for a government less captive to an unelected clerical elite, and the Majlis has become a key battleground for this effort.

Intra-Conservative Rift

Iran's conservatives can be roughly divided into two camps: those who believe the supreme leader has "faslol khatab," or final say in all matters, and those who do not. Ahmadinejad is leader of the latter camp, having used his two terms to establish the presidency as a position in competition with the supreme leader for executive authority.


George Friedman

George Friedman is the CEO and chief intelligence officer of Stratfor, a private intelligence company located in Austin, TX.
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