On Friday, Iranians will vote in parliamentary elections at a time of turmoil at home and of simmering tensions abroad.
The vote comes after months of anti-government protests that were fueled by a nosediving economy and met with a brutal crackdown on dissent.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why is this election important?
While the Islamic Consultative Assembly – also known as the parliament – plays an important role in Iran’s complicated political system, it is dwarfed in significance by the Supreme Leader, the country’s highest political and religious authority, and the Guardian Council, which controls who can and cannot stand in elections.
According to the Atlantic Council, more than 15,000 people applied to run for parliament, but 7,296 were disqualified by the Guardian Council – including some sitting members of parliament and many moderate candidates.
The election should provide evidence of how far the Iranian establishment has moved from current President Hassan Rouhani’s modernizing agenda and how it is now rallying around conservatives and hardliners.
Rouhani was first elected in 2013, having spent ten years serving as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. He was the driving force behind Iran’s shift from insular belligerent to a country actively seeking to engage with the West and, controversially, the US.
The nuclear deal, negotiated and signed by Rouhani, was central to his agenda. It opened Iran up to the outside world and invited foreign investment – particularly from the West. However, relations between Iran and the West have seriously deteriorated since Trump took office.
It is difficult to overstate the impact that Trump’s 2018 decision to walk away from the nuclear deal has had. The economic sanctions that the White House reimposed on Iran have battered the country’s economy, and foreign investors fear secondary sanctions from the US if they continue operating within Iran.
The fact that there will be so few moderates for Iranians to vote for on Friday suggests that, despite the faltering economy and anti-regime protests over the past year, the highest powers in Iran are in no mood to placate the public or try to reengage with the US-led West any time soon.
Who is standing?
Lots of conservatives and not many reformists.
According to Mostafa Tajzadeh, an Iranian reformist politician, the Guardian Council has fixed it so that in 253 of the 290 seats, conservatives and hardliners will not face any opposition from reformist parties.
“The decision of the Gua