Ethno-religious Minorities and Electoral Politics in Iran

Wastnidge, Edward and Anbarmoo, Mansour (2024). Ethno-religious Minorities and Electoral Politics in Iran. American Political Science Association: MENA Politics, 7(1) pp. 73–78.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.11061064

Abstract

The electoral politics of post-revolutionary Iran are often portrayed in Western media and academic analyses as an enduring battle between reform-oriented pragmatism and varying shades of conservatism. What is less well-covered is the experience of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities in terms of their engagement with and experiences of electoral processes in the country. This article aims to advance understanding of political participation of ethnic and religious minorities and their place in the electoral system in Iran. The primary focus will be on presidential election turnout in three provinces which contain populations that are commonly understood to be largely distinct in both ethnic and religious terms from the Persian and Shi’i majority in the country – the largely Sunni provinces of Kurdistan, Sistan-Baluchistan and West Azerbaijan. The article uses data from official government sources, as well as interviews to highlight the local insights, to explore differences in election turnout in the three cases. In doing so, it illustrates the often stark differences between participation rates in these provinces compared to overall turnout. It also highlights how turnout has tended to peak around the rising popularity of reformist candidates, and underscores how participation tends to be influenced by the prominence of local leaders’ engagement with national electoral processes.

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