To be blunt, most of the summaries of Friday's Parliamentary elections are of little use. Consider this Tehran Bureau headline, which spirals out of the muddled story put out by Iran's Press TV on Saturday: "'Principlist' Camp Dominates in Preliminary Election Results".
Since almost all those who ran on Friday were "principlists", working within Iran's political framework of the last decade --- and reinforced by the manipulation of the 2009 Presidential election and the suppression of dissent after it --- that sentence translates, "Establishment Politicians Dominate in Preliminary Election Results...And the Results Yet to Come".
This morning Press TV is reporting, without any detail, that "163 hopefuls" have passed the first-round threshold for a seat in the 290-member Parliament. When we get the full range of numbers, there will be individual stories to watch --- will it be the current Speaker Ali Larijani or the former Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel leading the next Parliament?--- but the political scene is already in place.
Because that political scene is one that was reinforced long before this vote. In one of the few insights to make it through the media muddle, The Washington Post's Thomas Erdbrink, citing unnamed analysts, wrote, "The outcome of the vote will most likely be a continuation of the policies of the outgoing parliament: ongoing support for Iran’s nuclear program, strong criticism of Ahmadinejad, but — for now — no attempt to impeach him."
Whether this was arranged through a genuine expression of the voters' will or some invention of the turnout, this was the near-certain outcome. A year ago, at the height of the conflict between the Supreme Leader and President Ahmadinejad --- marked by the fight to control the Ministry of Intelligence, and culminating in the President's defeat and an 11-day boycott of his duties --- we assessed that Ahmadinejad was now a "lame-duck" occupant of his office. He would not be removed, as this was cause instability and more in-fighting over the issue of who would replace him, but he would be contained and constricted by his rivals and the Supreme Leader's office.
And so it goes. The President will serve out the last year of his term, with more pressure put on those around him, such as Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai. But he is unlikely to do more than put out his rhetoric and proclaim the myth of his legacy.
There will be some notable effects, given Ahmadinejad's previous attempts to assert authority. For example, his effort to re-open nuclear talks with Western powers is likely to stall, unlike Ayatollah Khamenei suddenly sees value in the negotiations.
However, the story may now be beyond him. The bigger question, for example, is whether the Supreme Leader's office has arranged a Parliamentary outcome that guarantees it will have no problems with the Majlis as well as the President. We projected on the eve of the vote that Ayatollah Khamenei's camp would seek a "mish-mash" of results, with no possibility of a faction or bloc that could exert independence.
That has been delivered. One of the telling statistics of the election is about the supposed battle between the Unity Front, generally labelled pro-Khamenei, and the Islamic Constancy/Resistance Front, generally labelled as more sympathetic to Ahmadinejad. There was no battle: 51% of the votes went to candidates who were on the lists of both factions.
Bye-bye, Mahmoud, nice knowing you. But let's not make a drama of this. While the Islamic Republic's system is far too complex to reduce it to the plaything of the Supreme Leader, "stability" --- if not legitimacy --- lay in an arrangement in which he and his circle could be assured that they would not face trouble from a President, Parliament, or judiciary.