Elections in Iran: A New Majlis and a Mandate for Reform

June 1, 2000

A historian once observed that revolutions devour their own children. Last February in Iran,the children of the Islamic Revolution did just the reverse. After a campaign marked by bitter factional rivalries and unprecedented public liberties, Iranians went to the polls on February 18 to elect a new parliament. They handed an overwhelming victory to the advocates of reform and a humbling setback to the stalwarts of the revolution. 

However, rather than ending it, this eemingly decisive outcome only intensified Iran’s protracted power struggle. For while the parliamentary elections powerfully underscored the popular mandate for expanded political participation and looser social restrictions, their outcome also dramatically raised the stakes in the competition to chart the future course of the Islamic Republic. And over three ensuing months, the system appeared poised to devour itself. 

Yet, despite the fierce contention revived by the February polling, the basic outlines of the electoral verdict stood intact. A second round of balloting returned another convincing win for the reformist coalition, and the results of the Tehran vote received a long-delayed confirmation in a bold, last-minute intervention by the supreme leader. As the parliamentary session got underway in late May, one thing is certain: more than two decades after the revolution that shook the world and transformed Iran into a turbulent theocracy, the country is once again undergoing profound change. This time, a new generation of Iranians is demanding that its voice be heard, and it is generating a steady, sweeping transformation in the politics of the Islamic Republic.