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A new book by MESF Scholars

Presidential Elections in Iran: Islamic Idealism since the Revolution
Cambridge University Press (2021)

The dominant narrative of Iranian society and politics heralds the reformist movement as the epitome of Iran’s transition to secularity, while conservative political forces are positioned as advocates of Islamization and a bulwark against secularization. Examining all the presidential elections since the revolution, Mahmoud Pargoo and Shahram Akbarzadeh argue that in contrast, political and cultural imagination and expectations in Iran have actually secularized regardless of the reformist/conservative divide. Exploring the evolution of campaign discourses from the 1980s elections which brought Abolhassan Banisadr, Mohammad-Ali Rajai and Ali Khamenei to power, to the more recent campaigns of Mohamad Khatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani, this book suggests that current debates in Iranian domestic politics are not between secularists and their opponents, but rather, between different kinds of secular forces.

  •  A comprehensive history of presidential elections in post-revolutionary Iran
  • Brings to light original sources with extensive archival research in Persian newspapers and material from multiple parties and political groups
  • Of interest to students and scholars of political science and Middle East Studies interested in presidential elections more generally and the domestic politics of Iran

Book Endorsements

Mehran Kamrava, Georgetown University Qatar
‘Amid all the noise about Iran, here is a serious work that explores an understudied facet of Iranian politics. Through their deep dive into Iran’s presidential elections, Pargoo and Akbarzadeh examine the discourse of the campaigns and show the increasing secularization of Iranian politics. This is a work of tremendous importance and an essential read for anyone interested in better understanding contemporary Iranian politics.’

Kamran Scot Aghaie, University of Texas at Austin
‘Using national elections as a framework to explore the discourses around political trends in Iran from 1979 to the present, Mahmoud Pargoo and Shahram Akbarzadeh explore core questions about how different versions of secularism have evolved and competed in Iran over the last forty years. Offering nuanced understanding of Iranian politics, rather than simplistic notions of the religious hardliners vs. the reformists opposition, this is an important text for students of Middle Eastern, Iranian and comparative electoral politics.’

Table of Contents [Link to PDF full-text on Cambridge University Press]

Introduction [Link to PDF full-text on Cambridge University Press]
1. Theoretical Framework
2. The Age of the ‘Imam’
3. The Era of Reconstruction and Reform
4. Ahmadinejad and Secularization: Rupture or Continuity?
5. Consolidation of Secularity
Appendix: Presidential Elections in a Nutshell. 

Other Resources

Recent Analysis

Atlantic Council
Critical Threats
Ministry of the Interior, Electoral Office (expected launch, March 1)
President of Iran (English/Persian)
Office of the Supreme Leader (English/Persian)
Official Page of Ayatollah Khamenei (English/Persian)
Previous Election Results (Iran Data Portal)

Other Sources on Iran Election:

  • Barlow, Rebecca, and Fatemeh Nejati. 2017. “Impact and Significance of the 2016 ‘Campaign to Change the Male Face of Parliament’ in Iran” Social Movement Studies 16(3): 361-368.
  • Belal, Kulsoom. 2020. “Emerging Politics in Iran: Last Year of Rouhani’s Term and the New Conservative Parliament”. Policy Perspectives 17(1): 105-127.
  • Conduit, Dara, and Shahram Akbarzadeh. 2020. “Pre-Election Polling and the Democratic Veneer in a Hybrid Regime”. Democratization 27(5): 737-757.
  • Daghagheleh, Aghil. 2018. “Ambivalent Voting Behaviour: Ideology, Efficacy, and the Socioeconomic Dynamic of Voter Turnout in Iran, 1997-2005”. Sociological Forum 33(4): 1023-1044.
  • Deibert, Ronald, Joshua Oliver and Adam Senft. 2019. “Censors Get Smart: Evidence from Psiphon in Iran”. Review of Policy Research 36(3): 342-356.
  • Elling, Rasmus Christian. 2015. “Tribal Hands and Minority Votes: Ethnicity, Regionalism and Elections in Iran” Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(14): 2534-2550.
  • Faraji, Omid et al. 2020. “Political Connections, Political Cycles and Stock Returns: Evidence from Iran”. Emerging Market Review 45: 1-20.
  • Ghobadzadeh, Naser. 2019. “Nested Game of Elections in Iran”. Middle East Policy 26(3): 92-106.
  • Rivietti, Paola, and Alam Saleh. 2018. “Governing After Protests: The Case for Political Participation in Post-2009 Iran”. In Islamists and the Politics of the Arab Uprisings: Governance, Pluralisation and Contention, edited by Hendrik Kraetzschmar and Paola Rivetti, 36-53. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Soleimani, Hassan, and Maliheh Nouraei Yeganeh. 2016. “An Analysis of Pragmatic Competence in 2013 Presidential Election Candidates of Iran: A Comparison of Speech Acts with the Poll Outcomes”. Theory and Practice in Language Studies 6(4): 706-715.
  • Vaskin, Ilya (2020). “Vliyanie resul’tatov prezidentskikh vyborov na ekonomicheskuyu podderzhku regionov v opekunskikh: Keiys irana 2005-2013 gg. [How Presidential Election Results Effect Regional Economic Support in Tutelary Regimes: The Case of Iran, 2005-2013]” The Journal of Social Policy Studies 18(2): 313-330 (in Russian).
  • Yazdi, Asgar,and Majid Masoumi. 2016. “The Effect of Public Participation in the Elections to Improve the Living Conditions of People in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Journal of Politics and Law 19(2): 42-46.