Iran's Battle Lines

What to Expect in the Upcoming Elections

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waves as he arrives to attend a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran's Azadi Square, February 2016.  President.ir / Reuters

The stakes could not be higher for Iran’s February 26 elections for the parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with electing and removing the country’s Supreme Leader. With Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei now 77, it is likely that the next assembly will choose his successor, possibly reshaping the course of the Islamic Republic.

The polls follow the July 2015 nuclear agreement, a significant achievement for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected, in part, to resolve Iran’s protracted standoff with the West. His foreign policy victory could strengthen his pragmatist allies, allowing them to gain an upper hand in the legislature. If the opposite happens, Rouhani risks lame-duck status, jeopardizing his likelihood of re-election in 2017. 

The vote thus comes during a turbulent time. The end of sanctions has opened the country’s doors to the outside world. Although that opening could resuscitate Iran’s ailing economy, some

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