The political establishment in Iran is preparing for the next Majlis (parliamentary) elections on 14 March 2008. Candidates will need to register by early January, and they will be vetted by the Guardian Council (which can veto candidates it considers contrary to the interests of the Islamic Republic) six to seven weeks before the election date. In the last round of parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council vetoed the candidacies of more than a third of the 8,000 candidates, most of whom were reformists, and 85 of who were incumbent MPs. We are concerned that this may happen again—the Guardian Council has appointed hardliners to the election monitoring panel and reformists appear to be being discouraged from standing.
A key issue in the election is likely to be the economy, especially inflation, where estimates range from the official Iranian figures of around 12 per cent. to independent Iranian estimates of almost twice that. Within this, housing, foodstuffs and medicines have all been subject to above average price growth, making life harder for ordinary Iranians. Iran’s increased isolation, and the possibility of further multilateral sanctions as a result of Iran’s refusal to abide by its obligations on its nuclear programme, are also having an impact on international investment in and trade with Iran.
We are concerned by the continued clampdown on internal opposition, which has been going on for several months but appears to be intensifying in the run up to the election campaign—including, most recently, the arrests of three women affiliated with the Campaign For Equality, which is seeking to end legislation which discriminates against women. This is taking place against the backdrop of a wider deterioration in the human rights environment, including an increase in executions (close to 250 executions this year, compared to 177 for the whole of 2006), including multiple executions (eight reported cases of multiple executions since 22 July this year) and the execution of juveniles (three confirmed cases this year).