Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Presidential elections are underway today in Iran. At the same time, voters are called to elect their municipal administrations.
If there are no female candidates in the presidential poll, 6.2 per cent of the candidates at the municipal level are women, mostly from ordinary walks of life. For them, this is the opportunity to organise, take part in local political life, participate in municipal projects and orient them towards improving the daily lives of Iranians.
The Guardian Council of the Constitution, which decides who can run, is opposed to women’s participation in presidential elections. However, when it comes to municipal elections, the monitoring council – which includes five parliamentarians, three of whom are moderates and reformers – is less strict.
Female participation varies geographically. Teheran is well above the national average, with 21 per cent women candidates. However, some rural areas have led the way. In the village of Afzalabad, in south-eastern Sistan and Baluchestan, a poor and conservative province, the ten candidates for the four local council seats are all women.
In the same province, the village of Kalat elected its first female mayor in November 2013, whilst the city of Qasreqand got its first female governor. Still, women running municipalities are an exception: only 1 per cent of Iranian mayors are women.
Local elections in Tehran take on a further significance in view of the fight between reformers and conservatives. Members of the new council could remove Tehran’s current conservative mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who was a presidential candidate before he pulled out, and replace him with a reformer.
In February 2016, former reformist President Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) backed the list of current President Hassan Rouhani in the legislative elections, which won 30 seats.
Should reformers get the same support in municipal elections, they might be able to remove Ghalibaf and get to run the city for the first time after 12 years of "corruption" and "bad management".
Independent candidates have withdrawn from the race precisely to avoid "dispersing the votes".