Raheb Homavandi / Reuters An Iranian woman chants slogans during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 11, 2016.

How Iran's Moderates Triumphed

And What It Means for the Region

These days, news from the Middle East is usually disheartening, filled with terrorism, beheadings, civil wars, failing states, refugees, and sectarianism on the rise. But this week, there was finally some good news, and it came out of Iran.

A year after signing a landmark nuclear deal with the P5+1, Iran held two elections, one for its parliament, the Majlis, and one for the Assembly of Experts, a clerical council that selects the supreme leader. The vote, which coincided with the 110th anniversary of Iran's first parliamentary election, saw some 62 percent of the Iranian electorate—or 34 million people—peacefully demonstrate their commitment to the ballots. Unlike the disputed election of 2009, in which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accused of electoral fraud and which sparked weeks of protests, the vote seems to have been relatively clean. All in all, it should leave Iran even more politically stable than it already is.

To be sure, some observers, such as former Speaker of the House John Boehner, have dismissed the elections as inconsequential. The Guardian Council, they point out, disqualified massive numbers of moderates before the vote. The naysayers, however, are wrong. Despite its profound flaws, the ballot box has been firmly established as the only game in town, and the outcome of this vote has placed Iran on the path to gradual and stable change while every other country around it is imploding.

Iran's former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (C), Iranian former vice president Mohammad Reza Aref (center L) and a group of reformists pose for a photo in Tehran February 22, 2016.
Iran's former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (C), Iranian former vice president Mohammad Reza Aref (center L) and a group of reformists pose for a photo in Tehran February 22, 2016.
Even with their candidate list more than halved by the Guardian Council, the conservatives lost their solid control of the institution, and moderates were able to win at least one-third of the seats in the parliament. The political orientation of the Assembly of Experts, meanwhile, has remained the same. Although the conservatives maintained their majority, moderates, who were among the country’s top vote getters, are well positioned to play a more influential role than before.

The election’s final tally will be announced in a few weeks, but it is already clear that the fulcrum of Iran’s political

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