After the elections held on February 26, 2015 – the thirty-fifth after the Khomeinist Revolution – with a view to determining the winners of some seats, considering that in February no candidates had reached the minimum share of 25% of valid votes, the second elections for Iran’s Consultative Assembly were held on April 29, 2016. The swinging constituencies were 69.
The elected candidates will be declared effective on May 28, 2016.
The elections were also designed to elect some members of the Assembly of Experts and this is the first time that both elections are held on the same days.
As is well-known, the Legislative Assembly consists of 290 members, minus the five reserved for the Zoroastrians, the Jews, the Assyrians, the Chaldean Christians and the Armenians, with one seat for the Armenians of the South and the other for the Armenians of the North.
14 victorious candidates have not declared their party affiliation, while 30 members were elected in the Tehran Province from the “List of Hope”, run by Mohammed Khatami, and largely considered a “reformist” party.
It is a coalition combining the Council for Coordinating the Reforms Front, the National Trust Party, led by another well-known “reformist” leader, Mehdi Kharroubi, the new Union of Islamic Iran People Party, the Moderation and Development Party, linked to the current leader Hassan Rouhani, as well as the fraction of the Followers of Wilayat led by Ali Larijani, the former Head of Iran’s nuclear negotiations.
The competing political groups were 31.
The Assembly of Experts counts 88 members and there the “reformist” Rafsanjani and Hassan Rouhani secured 59% of the elected members, while previously the “moderates” – just to use a silly Western terminology – were about 20% of the Assembly members.
In the Tehran Province, Rafsanjani’s list won 15 of the 16 seats available.
38% of the members of the Assembly of Experts have changed.
27 candidates were supported by the “Principlists” – namely those we would naively call “conservatives” – while the reformists won 20 seats. As many as 35 candidates were supported by both groupings.
Furthermore, at least 33 of the 68 contested constituencies were won by the pro-Rouhani List of Hope, while the conservatives gained other 21 members of Parliament.
Only 14 seats were won by “independent” candidates, not affiliated to any party- which is, however, a good success.
The problem lies in the fact that the so-called “moderates” could support Rouhani’s economic policy, but not his social and security policies.
The Iranian political scene is ideologically fluid, and not only in recent times, because the definitions of “progressive” or “moderate” have no meaning in the Iranian ideological, religious and parliamentary context.
Undoubtedly the 14 female candidates – all “reformists”, who won in their constituencies – are a novelty.
Certainly two former leaders supporting the “hard line” towards the West, namely Mohammed Yazdi, and the namesake Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, the traditional mentor to Ahmadinedjad, were defeated.
Also Ahmad Jannati, the Secretary of the Guardian Council, lost.
Hence, basically the alliance between Rouhani and Rafsanjani won.
Probably due to the advanced age of Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader, who is 75, and the prostate surgery he underwent in 2014, this Assembly of Experts could be the one electing the successor to the current Rahbar.
In a series of polls conducted by Western agencies before the elections, voters showed substantial acceptance of the regularity of elections (despite the fact that widespread fraud and vote-rigging were recorded in the Isfahan Province in the first round), as well as general acceptance of candidates.
Only 15% of voters believe that elections in Iran are not “free and fair”.
According to the opinion polls carried out before the second round of elections, 46% of voters believe that Iran has a more lively and vibrant economy, while 52% believe that the economic situation is negative.
Furthermore, the number of optimists is still on the wane.
In the initial round of elections, 33% said they would vote for the “reformists”, 35% for the “Principlists” and 24% for independent candidates.
The most popular leaders are Rafsanjani (69%), Ali Larijani, the current President of the Assembly (63%), Ali Haddad Adel, the leader of the “Principlists” (62%), Ali Motahari, a moderate conservative (55%), and Mohammed Reza Aref, former vice-President with Khatami, a reformist appreciated by 48% of voters.
Voters think that the next Majlis – the Iranian Parliament – shall at first reduce unemployment and, secondly, tackle the problem of rising poverty. Thirdly, it shall enhance Iran’s military security and 3% of Iranians think it shall expand civil liberties.
It is not precisely the image of a people who want an “opening” to the outside world, even though a mere 7% of people supports this issue.
All voters, regardless of their political orientation, are largely confident that the next Majlis will solve Iran’s long-standing problems.
a) Iran has a stable political system, in which the moderate/progressive division is much more nuanced than in the Western world;
b) there is a good trust-based relationship between the ruling class and voters, despite the recent changes following the signing of JCPOA;
c) there exists a division of power between “progressive” and “moderate” leaders which, however, is not reflected immediately on major foreign policy and defense decisions;
d) voters pay great attention to Iran’s image of strength and external projection, which is a value for both electoral constituencies.
Hence, quite the opposite of what Western analysts currently foresee.
After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians
The future for Syria’s people is “increasingly bleak”, UN-appointed rights experts said on Tuesday, highlighting escalating conflict in several areas of the war-ravaged country, a return to siege tactics and popular demonstrations linked to the plummeting economy.
According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war.
The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces.
“The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven.”
Scandal of Al Hol’s children
Professor Pinheiro also described as “scandalous” the fact that many thousands of non-Syrian children born to former IS fighters continue to be held in detention in dreadful conditions in Syria’s north-east.
“Most foreign children remain deprived of their liberty since their home countries refuse to repatriate them,” he told journalists, on the sidelines of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“We have the most ratified convention in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is completely forgotten. And democratic States that are prepared to abide to this Convention they neglect the obligations of this Convention in what is happening in Al Hol and other camps and prison places.”
Some 40,000 children continue to be held in camps including Al Hol. Nearly half are Iraqi and 7,800 are from nearly 60 other countries who refuse to repatriate them, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, which covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.
Blockades and bombardment
The rights experts also condemned a siege by pro-Government forces on the town of Dar’a Al-Balad, the birthplace of the uprising in 2011, along with “siege-like tactics” in Quineitra and Rif Damascus governorates.
“Three years after the suffering that the Commission documented in eastern Ghouta, another tragedy has been unfolding before our eyes in Dar’a Al-Balad,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally, in reference to the siege of eastern Ghouta which lasted more than five years – and which the commissioners previously labelled “barbaric and medieval”.
In addition to the dangers posed by heavy artillery shelling, tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Dar’a Al-Balad had insufficient access to food and health care, forcing many to flee, the Commissioners said.
Living in fear
In the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, the Commissioners described how people lived in fear of car bombs “that are frequently detonated in crowded civilian areas”, targeting markets and busy streets.
At least 243 women, men and children have been killed in seven such attacks over the 12-month reporting period, they said, adding that the real toll is likely to be considerably higher.
Indiscriminate shelling has also continued, including on 12 June when munitions struck multiple locations in Afrin city in northwest Syria, killing and injuring many and destroying parts of al-Shifa hospital.
Insecurity in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria has also deteriorated, according to the Commission of Inquiry, with increased attacks by extremist “remnants” and conflict with Turkish forces.
The Commissioners noted that although President Assad controls about 70 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of the pre-war population, there seems to be “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation. On the contrary.”
Despite a welcome drop in the level of violence compared with previous years, the Commission of Inquiry highlighted the dangers that continue to be faced by non-combatants
The senior rights experts also highlighted mounting discontent and protests amongst the population, impacted by fuel shortages and food insecurity, which has increased by 50 per cent in a year, to 12.4 million, citing UNFPA data.
“The hardships that Syrians are facing, particularly in the areas where the Government is back in control, are beginning to show in terms of protests by Syrians who have been loyal to the State,” said Mr. Megally. They are now saying, ‘Ten years of conflict, our lives are getting worse rather than getting better, when do we see an end to this?’”
IAEA Director General reaches agreement in Tehran, as Biden’s clock is ticking
A meeting to resolve interim monitoring issues was held in Tehran on 12 September between the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. Grossi was on a visit to Tehran to fix roadblocks on the stalled monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program, which is ever more challenging in a context where there is no diplomatic agreement to revive or supersede the JCPOA. Grossi said in a press conference on 12 September that the IAEA had “a major communication breakdown” with Iran. But what exactly does that mean?
The IAEA monitoring equipment had gone three months without being serviced and Grossi said he needed “immediate rectification” of the issues. He was able to get the Iranian side to come to an agreement. The news from Sunday was that the IAEA’s inspectors are now permitted to service the identified equipment and replace their storage media which will be kept under the joint IAEA and AEOI seals in Iran. The way and the timing are now agreed by the two sides. The IAEA Director General had to push on the terms of the agreement reached in February 2020.
Grossi underlined on Sunday that the new agreement can’t be a permanent solution. Data from the nuclear facilities is just being stored according to what commentators call “the continuity of knowledge” principle, to avoid gaps over extended time periods but the data is not available to inspectors.
When it’s all said and done, basically, it all comes down to the diplomatic level. The American withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2018 keeps undermining the Iran nuclear inspections on the technical level. All the inspection activities have been stalled as a result of the broken deal. The IAEA’s strategy in the interim is that at least the information would be stored and not permanently lost.
Everyone is waiting for the JCPOA to be restored or superseded. As Vali Nasr argued in the New York Times back in April this year, the clock is ticking for Biden on Iran. Iran diplomacy doesn’t seem to be on Biden’s agenda at all at the moment. That makes the nuclear inspectors’ job practically impossible. Journalists pointed out on Sunday that the Director General’s visit found one broken and one damaged camera in one of the facilities. Grossi assured it has been agreed with Iran that the cameras will be replaced within a few days. The IAEA report notes that it was not Iran but Israel that broke the IAEA cameras in a June drone attack carried out by Israel. Presumably, Israel aimed to show Iran is not complying by committing the violations themselves.
Grossi’s visit was a part of the overall IAEA strategy which goes along the lines of allowing time for diplomacy, without losing the data in the meantime. He added that he thinks he managed to rectify the most urgent problem, which is the imminent loss of data.
The Reuters’s title of the meeting is that the agreement reached on Sunday gives “hope” to a renewed Iran deal with the US, after Iran elected a hardliner president, Ebrahim Raisi, in August this year, but that’s a misleading title. This is not the bit that we were unsure about. The question was never on the Iranian side. No one really expected that the new Iranian president would not engage with the IAEA at all. Earlier in November 2019, an IAEA inspector was not allowed on a nuclear cite and had her accreditation canceled. In November 2020, Iranian lawmakers passed a law that mandated the halt of the IAEA inspections and not to allow inspectors on the nuclear sites, as well as the resuming of uranium enrichment, unless the US sanctions are lifted. In January 2021, there were threats by Iranian lawmakers that IAEA inspectors would be expelled. Yet, the new Iranian President still plays ball with the IAEA.
It is naïve to think that Iran should be expected to act as if there was still a deal but then again, US foreign policy is full of naïve episodes. “The current U.S. administration is no different from the previous one because it demands in different words what Trump demanded from Iran in the nuclear area,” Khamenei was quoted to have said in his first meeting with President Raisi’s cabinet.
“We don’t need a deal – you will just act as if there was still a deal and I will act as if I’m not bound by a deal” seems to be the US government’s line put bluntly. But the ball is actually in Biden’s court. The IAEA Director General is simply buying time, a few months at a time, but ultimately the United States will have to start moving. In a diplomatic tone, Grossi referred on Sunday to many commentators and journalists who are urging that it is time.
I just don’t see any signs on Biden’s side to move in the right direction. The current nuclear talks we have that started in June in Vienna are not even direct diplomatic talks and were put on hold until the outcome of Iran’s presidential elections were clear. US hesitance is making Grossi’s job impossible. The narrative pushed by so many in the US foreign policy space, namely that the big bad wolf Trump is still the one to blame, is slowly fading and reaching its expiry date, as Biden approaches the one-year mark of his presidency.
Let’s not forget that the US is the one that left and naturally is the one that has to restart the process, making the parties come back to the table. The US broke the deal. Biden can’t possibly be expecting that the other side will be the one extending its hand to beg for forgiveness. The US government is the one that ruined the multi-year, multilateral efforts of the complex dance that was required to get to something like the JCPOA – a deal that Republicans thought was never going to be possible because “you can’t negotiate with Iran”. You can, but you need skilled diplomats for that. Blinken is no Kerry. Judging from Blinken’s diplomacy moves with China and on other issues, I just don’t think that the Biden Administration has what it takes to get diplomacy back on track. If he follows the same line with Iran we won’t see another JCPOA in Biden’s term. Several weeks ago, Biden said that there are other options with Iran if diplomacy fails, in a White House meeting with Israel’s new prime minister Bennett. I don’t think that anyone in the foreign policy space buys that Biden would launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But I don’t think that team Biden can get to a diplomatic agreement either. Biden and Blinken are still stuck in the 2000, the time when others would approach the US no matter what, irrespective of whose fault it was. “You will do as I say” has never worked in the history of US foreign policy. That’s just not going to happen with Iran and the JCPOA. To expect otherwise is unreasonable. The whole “Trump did it” line is slowly and surely reaching its expiry date – as with anything else on the domestic and foreign policy plane. Biden needs to get his act together. The clock is ticking.
Elections represent an opportunity for stability and unity in Libya
With just over 100 days until landmark elections in Libya, political leaders must join forces to ensure the vote is free, fair and inclusive, the UN envoy for the country told the Security Council on Friday.
Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) briefed ambassadors on developments ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place on 24 December.
They were agreed under a political roadmap stemming from the historic October 2020 ceasefire between Libya’s rival authorities, and the establishment of a Government of National Unity (GNU) earlier this year.
At the crossroads
“Libya is at a crossroads where positive or negative outcomes are equally possible,” said Mr. Kubiš. “With the elections there is an opportunity for Libya to move gradually and convincingly into a more stable, representative and civilian track.”
He reported that the House of Representatives has adopted a law on the presidential election, while legislation for the parliamentary election is being finalized and could be considered and approved within the coming weeks.
Although the High National Election Commission (HNEC) has received the presidential election law, another body, the High State Council, complained that it had been adopted without consultation.
Foreign fighter threat
The HNEC chairman has said it will be ready to start implementation once the laws are received, and will do everything possible to meet the 24 December deadline.
“Thus, it is for the High National Election Commission to establish a clear electoral calendar to lead the country to the elections, with support of the international community, for the efforts of the Government of National Unity, all the respective authorities and institutions to deliver as free and fair, inclusive and credible elections as possible under the demanding and challenging conditions and constraints,” said Mr. Kubiš.
“The international community could help create more conducive conditions for this by facilitating the start of a gradual withdrawal of foreign elements from Libya without delay.”
Young voters eager
The UN envoy also called for countries and regional organizations to provide electoral observers to help ensure the integrity and credibility of the process, as well as acceptance of the results.
He also welcomed progress so far, including in updating the voter registry and the launch of a register for eligible voters outside the country.
So far, more than 2.8 million Libyans have registered to vote, 40 per cent of whom are women. Additionally, more than half a million new voters will also be casting their ballots.
“Most of the newly registered are under 30, a clear testament to the young generation’s eagerness to take part in determining the fate of their country through a democratic process. The Libyan authorities and leaders must not let them down,” said Mr. Kubiš.
He stressed that the international community also has a responsibility to support the positive developments in Libya, and to stand firm against attempts at derailment.
“Not holding the elections could gravely deteriorate the situation in the country, could lead to division and conflict,” he warned. “I urge the Libyan actors to join forces and ensure inclusive, free, fair parliamentary and presidential elections, which are to be seen as the essential step in further stabilizing and uniting Libya.”
Torture, killings, lawlessness, still blight Burundi’s rights record
The people of Burundi continue to endure serious human rights violations including possible crimes against humanity, the majority committed by...
Appliance standards and labelling is highly effective at reducing energy use
Policies that introduce minimum efficiency performance standards and energy-consumption labelling on appliances and equipment have led to reduced power consumption,...
Women in Albania to Gain Greater Access to Global Digital Jobs Market
“Digital Jobs Albania” is a new World Bank initiative that will help women in Albania gain better access to online...
How China Exacerbates Global Fragility and What Can be Done to Bolster Democratic Resilience to Confront It
Authors: Caitlin Dearing Scott and Isabella Mekker From its declared policy of noninterference and personnel contributions to United Nations (UN)...
Opposing Hindutava: US conference raises troubling questions
Controversy over a recent ‘Dismantling Global Hindutava’ conference that targeted a politically charged expression of Hindu nationalism raises questions that...
Russia, China and EU are pushing towards de-dollarization: Will India follow?
Authors: Divyanshu Jindal and Mahek Bhanu Marwaha* The USD (United States Dollar) has been the world’s dominant currency since the...
Today’s World Demands Sustainability
In the Brundtland Report, the United Nations defined sustainable development as development that satisfies current demands without jeopardising future generations’...
South Asia3 days ago
Afghanistan: Hazaras in danger of extinction
Economy2 days ago
The Economic Conundrum of Pakistan
Finance3 days ago
2021 China-ASEAN Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum
South Asia4 days ago
Why the Taliban Had to Change
Americas3 days ago
China And U.S. Are On the Brink of War
Middle East4 days ago
IAEA Director General reaches agreement in Tehran, as Biden’s clock is ticking
Africa3 days ago
African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter
Americas2 days ago
20 years after 9/11: American decline in the Islamic world and China- Russian emergence