Iranians are having an election today to fill their unicameral legislature, the Majlis. While parties are restricted to those that fall under accordance with the foundations of the Islamic State, there's some differences in these groups. In light of the recent spats between the Ayatollah and President Ahmadinejad over the direction of the country as the economy runs into difficulty, the election will give a reflection of the mood of the elite in Iran and their positions towards the current (domestic) policy.
There is a higher body- The Guardian Council- that also consults on legislation, though it is not popularly elected. The candidates for the body are voted on by the Majlis, who are nominated by the head of the legal system in Iran. Currently this is Sadeq Larijani, who appears to be on the side of the Ayatollah more than the President. As such the Guardian Council has been stacked with pro-Ayatollah factions.
There are 290 seats in the Majlis. Five of these are allotted for minorities (2 for the Armenians, 1 for the Assyrians and Chaldeans, 1 for the Jews, and 1 for the Zoroastrians).
Vote of course comes amid more tensions with Iran, Israel, and the United States, which of course is factoring into the mood there. The last election for the body in 2008 saw 60% turnout, and gave the following seats: 195 for the 'conservatives' and 51 for the 'Reformists'. 39 for independents, and the 5 seats for the minorities.
This election will not see as high a participation from the 'Reformist' members, who've faced difficulty following the 2009 Presidential Elections. As things stand it'll be a contest within the parties of the 'Conservative' bloc over the positions of the Ayatollah and the President.
The 'parties' specifically, from wikipedia:
United Front of Conservatives (UFC): The coalition was officially formed on 12 January 2008 for the 2008 elections and was re-formed on 6 January 2012 and is led by Ali Larijani, current chairman of the parliament.
Front of Islamic Revolution Stability (FIS): Formed by a group of anti-government conservatives, led by Gholam-Hossein Elham, former chief of staff of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Monotheism and Justice Party (MJP): A group of Ahmadinejad supporters and led by former Foreign Affairs Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki.
People's Voice (PV): The front formed by a group of conservatives led by Mohsen Rezaee, a former military person and 2009 presidential candidate.
Insight and Islamic Awakening Front (IIAF): The front led by second deputy speaker of the parliament, Shahahab od-Din Sadr.
Democratic Coalition of Reformists (DCR): The main reformists coalition that led by Democracy Party's leader Mostafa Kavakebian.
Labour Coalition (LC): A coalition of the members of Islamic Labour Party and Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network. The front's leader is Hossein Kamali, former Minister of Labour.
Moderate Reformists (MR): A group of pro-government Reformists, led by Ali Motahari.
Again though, there is not much expected from the 'Reformists', more attention will be on the breakdown of which parties will get the most seats among the conservatives.
Iranians Vote to Choose New Parliament By ALAN COWELL
LONDON — For the first time since a disputed presidential vote triggered a bloody crackdown against street protesters in 2009, Iranians went to the polls in a parliamentary vote on Friday likely to reflect a struggle for influence and position among the country’s top leaders.
In the run-up to the vote, Iranian leaders have been urging a high turnout as they maneuver in advance of presidential elections next year when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad completes his second and final term since 2005.
The opposition, which played a central role in voicing accusations of fraud and challenging the outcome of the 2009 vote, has been left greatly weakened by the government’s crackdown, its leaders under house arrest or jailed and its access to a voice in the media closed down. Opposition followers had urged a boycott of the vote.
The ballot coincides with mounting international concern over Iran’s nuclear program and growing speculation about whether Israel will launch a military strike against Tehran’s nuclear facilities. The Iran issue is expected to dominate talks in Washington on Monday between President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
The vote is unlikely to change Iran’s insistence on its right to a nuclear program, which, Tehran says, is for civilian purposes. Western leaders suspect that Tehran is seeking to enhance its uranium enrichment capacity for military purposes.
Indeed, in an interview published Friday in The Atlantic Monthly magazine, Mr. Obama said he was not bluffing in his Iran policies.
“I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff,” he was quoted as saying. “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”
But he cautioned that premature military action “at a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally” — a reference to Syria — “is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?”
The United States and its European Union allies have been seeking to impose a stranglehold of sanctions against Iran, which have begun to hurt the country’s private sector and middle class, inspiring unusual open criticism of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader.
The value of the Iranian currency has plummeted, forcing up the price of imported goods, and inflation is said to be running above 20 percent, hurting many Iranians.
Ayatollah Khamenei, who is Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main rival, cast his vote in Tehran on Friday, urging “vigorous participation” among Iranians to send a message to the country’s “arrogant” Western enemies in the dispute with Tehran over its nuclear program, state media reported.
Some analysts believe the vote could buttress Ayatollah Khamenei’s position against Mr. Ahmadinejad’s efforts to strengthen his parliamentary support base.
“There is a lot of negative propaganda against our nation,” Ayatollah Khamenei said as he voted on Friday, according to Reuters. “The arrogant powers are bullying us to maintain their prestige. A high turnout will be better for our nation and for preserving security.”
“Whenever there has been more enmity toward Iran, the importance of the elections has been greater,” he said.
Press TV, a state-financed satellite broadcaster, said that more than 48 million people are eligible to choose among 3,454 candidates for 290 parliamentary seats at 47,000 polling stations. The Parliament, or Majlis, is regarded as a weak institution in Iran’s power structure.
Some politicians have said that the Guardian Council, which vets candidates, had excluded many pro-Ahmadinejad candidates, strengthening Ayatollah Khamenei’s position.
Polling stations in affluent northern Tehran were quiet in early voting, Reuters said, but people formed lines in central and downtown parts of the city.
Some analysts say the government will report a turnout of 60 percent or higher, regardless of what happens on Friday. Unlike in 2009, protests are unlikely, the analysts said, and many Iranians could end up voting to avoid official wrath since their national ID cards are stamped when they cast their ballots.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 2, 2012
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the day on which President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will meet for talks in Washington. They will meet on Monday, not Friday.
State media claims 65% turnout, and the results seem to give at least 70% of the Majli's seats to the pro-Ayatollah conservatives. There's been some speculation that Ahmadinejad's supporters may've been told to 'quietly' boycott the elections in districts where there was no pro-Ahmadinejad candidate, as some of them had their candidacy forms rejected by the Guardian Council, which is as I mentioned earlier controlled by pro-Ayatollah figures. Some reformists also called for boycott of the polls.
While in foreign affairs and nuclear power the major factions do not differ, internally they do and it reflects the power groups within Iran. Especially since legally Ahmadinejad can not run for a third term, the Ayatollah's relative standing within the thick of the politics can influence the candidates that would stand for that election.