February 08, 2016

Unopposed Candidates in the Assembly of Experts Election

The composition of the Assembly of Experts, the political body charged with selecting Iran’s next supreme leader, is already tilting away from the moderates. Iranians will go to the polls on February 26 to elect 88 men to the Assembly of Experts from a predetermined list of candidates. A semifinal version of that list has been released. Of the nine candidates who are currently running unopposed in their districts, none are natural allies to the moderate-pragmatic bloc some hope will emerge under Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Hassan Rouhani, who are candidates for the Assembly as well.  

Eight of these nine unopposed candidates have strong ties to the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers, a prominent conservative body that forms the backbone of Iran’s clerical network. Several have also been appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as his personal representatives in their respective provinces, meaning that they are embedded at least to some extent in Khamenei’s personal network.  The backgrounds of these candidates suggest that they are unlikely to select a supreme leader of a significantly different ideological mold than Khamenei himself.