Voters across Iran are heading to the polls for the first parliamentary election since the 2009 presidential vote that led to a bloody crackdown on opposition activists. The vote comes at a crucial moment for the country as the threat of war with Israel looms everywhere and international sanctions have crippled the economy and driven up inflation.
As usual, it's not clear how representative this vote will actually be. (Nor is it clear how you even get elected.) After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was awarded a victory in 2009, protesters took to the streets for several weeks, claiming fraud and supporting opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Though ultimately unsuccessful the protests, which organized and spread with the help of social media and the Internet, became a model of sorts for the Arab Spring that would happen two years later around the rest of the Middle East.
This election, however, is being seen as a contest not between reformers and the ayatollahs, but a test of wills between Ahmadinejad and the other hard-liners in the Iranian regime. The president, who will end his term second next year, has been under fire for the rising prices and unemployment caused in part by sanctions, while at the same time Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is looking to weaken the president's office at the expense of a Parliament controlled by the Guardian Council and its allies.
Despite the reminders of 2009, this election is unlikely to cause the same level of reaction in the streets, in part because many of the reformers responsible for have been silenced through intimidation and jail, and most have also been blocked from the ballots. The unease over the ongoing conflict between Iran and U.S. and Israel, has made it difficult to speak out. So while we won't see throngs of young people take to the streets, we also (hopefully) won't be seeing a repeat of terrible images, like the death of Nedā Āghā-Soltān.