US pullout from nuclear deal makes Iran elections even more crucial

Delhi Feb 20, 2020, 08.03 PM(IST) Written By: WION

File photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The people of Iran are exhausted by a string of crises. 

Iran elections come at a time when the Islamic Republic is most vulnerable, both from the inside and from the outside. American sanctions have crippled the economy and public anger against the regime has raged on unabated.

Iranians will vote for the first time since US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Nuclear Deal. Whether they turn out in big numbers or not will be a referendum in itself.

This Parliamentary election of Iran is a litmus test of the people's faith in the state. It comes at a time when the sentiment against the regime is at its worst.

The confrontation with America, the economic hardship and an airline tragedy - the people's confidence in Iran's leaders is battered
and that is set to pose the biggest problem for the authorities in this election.  

Four years ago, things looked very different - Hassan Rouhani and his allies won big. Hopes were high that the 2015 nuclear deal would pull Iran out of political isolation, and more importantly boost the economy.

But now, the vote to pick 290 lawmakers comes after the US pulled out of the deal. Sanctions have sent the economy on a swift downward spiral over the last 2 years and the standard of living has dipped. 

In November 2019, protests exploded across the country against fuel price hikes. Those protests turned political, with demonstrators demanding a regime change.

A crackdown by the revolutionary guards killed hundreds and thousands of others were arrested. The regime also faced major flack for the poor handling of slain General Qasem Soleimani's funeral. The stampede which occurred during his funeral killed over 50 people and more than 200 were injured.

The public is also livid over the accidental downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane last month, which killed all 176 people aboard - mainly Iranians.

After days of denial, Tehran finally put the blame on the revolutionary guards. The people of Iran are exhausted by a string of crises. 

Around 58 million Iranians are eligible to vote - the turnout in 2012 was 66 per cent, in 2016, it reduced to 62 per cent and in 2020, it is expected to drop significantly.

Nearly half of the candidates, with moderate political views, have been rejected. Ayatollah Khamenei has ensured that hardliners dominate the field. He is Iran's highest authority and has tried to drum up the nationalistic sentiment to secure a strong turnout.

Whatever be the turnout, Iran's foreign policy or nuclear policy will remain the same because it will be Khamenei's loyalists who will be in Parliament.