This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
Three decades after the 1979 revolution is Iran more of an integrated nation-state? To what extend is overtly “ethnic” voting a determinate of electoral behavior in Iran? Are elections framed in “local contexts” in restive ethnic minority provinces? How attuned are the voters in rural areas to national campaign chatter?
This paper analyzes the dynamics of provincial/local politics in post-revolutionary Iran and how it has impacted the integrative nature of the citizenry. The author maintains that we need to abandon partisan discourse and anecdotal reasoning in favor of data-driven inquiry in addressing the question of Iranian national identity. Toward that end, empirical data from 1979 to 2013 is used to challenge some of the widely-held presumptions about electoral behavior in Iranian provinces. The paper concentrates on seven restive ethnic minority provinces (East Azerbaijan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, Kurdistan, Sistan-Baluchistan, and West Azerbaijan) that together make up 24% of Iran’s population. After juxtaposing some of the positive and negative trends impacting national identity in post-revolutionary Iran, the author moves to lay out some of the main explanatory arguments of the paper which are as follows: (a) While primordialism and the candidate’s coethnics is a factor in electoral turnouts and ethnic favoritism is commonplace, the electoral behavior of minorities increasingly indicates a willingness to operate within the confines of the political system; (b) the above dynamic is partly attributable to the fact that there are more cases of cross-cutting cleavages (ethnicity, religious sect, tribal loyalty) than overlapping cleavages; and (c) The rural population is now more politically engaged and has more access to political means (power to petition their MPs, provincial offices of various ministries), which in turn positively impacts turnout at municipal elections.