So what political developments can be expected after the February 2020 election in which the conservative hardliners won 221 or the 290 seats?
The new Majles will convene in July. It will then use the remainder of the current government’s term, until July 2021, to weaken key personalities in the administration. This could take the form of ministerial impeachments or investigations into various organisations.
The Majles will also attempt to limit the government’s space for manoeuvre in some key areas such as foreign policy, especially with respect to nuclear and other negotiations with the West.
All conservative individuals and institutions will attempt to push the moderate faction out of the executive branch in the 2021 presidential election. As the regime will try hard to achieve a higher voter turnout, however, it is conceivable that at least one moderate candidate for president will be allowed. Furthermore, competition between the various conservative sub-factions may create an opportunity for moderates.
Assuming that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still alive in the second half of 2021, the process of determining his successor will begin
In addition to these developments, the conservative/hard-line domination of politics by mid-2021 will translate into policies based on the following priorities:
- All domestic, economic, and regional policies will focus on security, i.e., regime survival and full control of all affairs through security and intelligence institutions, especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The security and intelligence institutions have all been shaped by the revolutionary process and are the most loyal to the regime. Therefore, the conservative core will continue to rely on them in all policy areas.
- Economic policy will focus on domestic capacity building and a gradual consolidation of trade and economic ties with immediate neighbours, including Russia, Turkey, and China. Trade and investment interaction with Western countries will be very limited.
- Although conservatives tend to promote a confrontational foreign policy, they will also try to scale down external tensions in order to improve internal economic conditions. That said, they want to project military power in order to enter possible future negotiations from a position of strength.
- The conservative/hard-line policy toolbox also includes avoidance of outright military confrontation in order to prevent regime collapse. As such, even the growing power base of these factions is unlikely to push Iran towards an all-out military conflict with the United States or Israel.