Election Fears and Economic Woes Pose New Challenges for Iran’s Leaders
New York Times / Rick Gladstone

Iran’s conservative Islamic hierarchy has been seeking to portray the coming parliamentary elections as an enviable model of Middle East democracy and an inspiration for the Arab Spring revolts.

But a likely boycott by Iran’s harshly silenced reformists and fears of election-related violence, combined with dire economic problems arising from Iran’s isolation over its suspect nuclear program, are creating new challenges for Iranian leaders as they face their first domestic legitimacy test since the disputed presidential election of 2009.

Despite assertions by the leaders that reformist candidates will be allowed to participate in the parliamentary elections, to be held in March, the two principal reformist opposition figures in Iran, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both former presidential candidates, remained under house arrest for most of 2011, their supporters say, and both are urging followers to stay away from the polls.

Even Iran’s mildly reform-minded former president, Mohammad Khatami, who has not been treated as harshly by the government, said in December that reformist candidates would not run in the March elections. That would create a glaring gap that could prove worrisome in providing the appearance of a choice of candidates, and undermine the quest for legitimacy.

“It was expected that the conditions would be granted so that the reformists could participate in the elections, but the conditions were not met,” M... >>>

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