Author: Vasil Ghlonti



On March 1, 2024, Iran held its Parliamentary (National Majlis) and Assembly of Experts elections. The Majlis candidates were elected for a four-year term, while the Assembly of Experts (Majlis Khobregan Ghanune Asasi) candidates were elected for eight years. This was the first election in the country following a mass protest movement, and is one which could reveal certain truths about the current political situation in the country. The Assembly of Experts, a unique legislative body composed of Shia theologians, holds great significance in Iran. Its main function is to appoint/elect the country’s highest spiritual and political leader, or “Rahbar”, and, if necessary, dismiss him from office.

With the National Majlis, our attention is drawn to the fact that candidates for deputies are also allowed to participate in the elections by a unique body consisting of 12 lawyers – the Assembly of Experts (Shuraye Negahbane Ghanune Asasi), which consists of religious jurist theologians, the “faqihs” (six), and candidates (six) recommended by the head of the judiciary, and subsequently nominated by the Majlis.

The purpose of our blog is to identify and analyze the attitude of Iranian society towards these elections and their results: What is the mood of Iranian citizens towards the government? How high are the risks of a protest being incited?


The Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts Election

According to our analysis, the parliamentary elections that took place on March 1 were heavily influenced by conservative groups, who aimed to secure an absolute majority in both Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. Moderate reformist politicians were not allowed to run in the elections, and, as a result, conservative hardliners won all 88 seats in the Assembly of Experts and 245 out of 290 seats in the Majlis elections in the first round. The remaining 45 mandates were postponed to the second round, which was held on May 10 and saw hard-line conservatives claiming victory again.

The Iranian conservatives used an interesting strategy in the elections by allowing a record number of candidates (15.2 thousand), including women (1.7 thousand), to run for office, creating the impression that it was a democratic process. However, they officially removed their main political rivals from the elections, so the fight for the 290 seats in the Majlis and 88 seats in the Assembly of Experts was mainly between marginal conservatives.

In our view, this circumstance significantly influenced the course of the elections. The opposition forces urged their supporters to boycott the elections, a strategy that proved successful: Instead of the anticipated 61 million voters, only about 25 million participated, constituting 41% of the total electorate. Even the Iranian authorities were unable to conceal such a historically low turnout, a fact acknowledged by Iranian Minister of Internal Affairs, Ahmad Vahid. Notably, 8% of the ballots were invalidated due to damage. Tehran stands out for the highest number of artificially spoiled and subsequently annulled ballots (15%). We assess that the particularly low turnout in Tehran poses a significant threat to the ruling regime of Iran, given that the Ayatollahs are most apprehensive about discontent among the capital’s populace. This concern is understandable, since Tehran houses the country’s governing institutions, and any disruption there could jeopardize their authority.

Aside from Tehran, low voter turnout was observed in Kurdistan of Iran, which has a population of 1.6 million (30.4%), and in the Alborz province, with a population of 2.3 million (28.4%). It is conceivable that the low attendance in Alborz could be attributed to its geographical proximity to Tehran. Furthermore, Alborz was only separated from Tehran in 2010, having been part of it before. This province and its capital, Karaj, serve as a gathering place for progressive Iranian youth, with influential families from Tehran owning country houses there. Regarding Kurdistan, the Ayatollahs have historically faced challenges in Kurdish-populated regions, so the low voter turnout rate there also came as no surprise. Additionally, Mahsa Amin, the girl whose death sparked large-scale protests, was of Kurdish nationality. During the protests, the highest number of casualties occurred in clashes with the regime’s forces in Kurdistan. Naturally, this further exacerbated the already strained relationship between the government and this region. The progressive, anti-government sentiments of Tehran’s youth have roots there.

The Iranian authorities were well aware that a significant portion of voters would abstain from the elections even before they took place. Consequently, government supporters attempted to deceive opposition supporters at the polling stations in an effort to legitimize the elections. Their efforts proved futile. In our assessment, the Iranian populace is weary of participating in elections where genuine choice is absent. In previous elections, up to the year 2020, so-called “reformers” and “moderate conservatives” also participated, offering the progressive youth a semblance of representation. However, since 2020, the Iranian government has increasingly consolidated power, effectively sidelining the “reformers” from governance. This trend indicates a growing disconnect between the ageing Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian people, particularly its youth, with a focus on ultra-conservatives in the 2024 elections.  It is conceivable that Khamenei, who is elderly and in poor health, is also being influenced by hardline conservatives. This has led to significant dissatisfaction among reformers, with their leaders, including former Iranian President Khatami, boycotting the elections altogether. Given this context, it is noteworthy that only approximately 10% of voters participated in the second round of elections held on May 10th.

The elections underscored the illegitimacy of the current ruling regime in Iran. With only 41% of eligible voters participating in the official elections (according to a segment of the opposition, this figure may be inflated, with even fewer voters having actually turned out), and reports of various manipulations and falsifications during the electoral process, it is foreseeable that the Ayatollah regime will face significant challenges.



In our assessment, the Iranian authorities have opted to completely seize power in these elections, disregarding civilized rules of the game, and sidelining opposition-minded reformers. The Ayatollah regime has forfeited the people’s legitimacy, setting the stage for serious long-term challenges. There are concerns about the health of Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, who has reached an advanced age: This is what led to the decision by Iranian hardliner conservatives to hold these elections. The Iranian political elite is already planning for the post-Khamenei era, and is working to maintain control during the transitional period until a successor is appointed. However, Iran’s political landscape is deeply divided, with factions having minimal points of consensus.

Consequently, any significant event could spark renewed waves of public protest, potentially leading to a more tumultuous domestic political environment than witnessed after the murder of Mahsa Amin. Moreover, the country faces significant socio-economic challenges, with a notable increase in unemployment and underemployment in recent years. Despite this, it would be erroneous to assert that the regime is entirely weakened and incapable of resistance. The Ayatollahs command robust state institutions, including security forces and intelligence services, which Khamenei finances adequately to ensure their loyalty. These institutions are actively engaged in various domestic and international ventures.

The population lacks experience in challenging the government’s armed structures, has limited access to weapons, and struggles to unite effectively. The possibility of a change in government in Iran relies on the readiness of the active opposition and the willingness of influential countries to support such a transition.