A new study of the Iranian regime’s recent Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections published on Wednesday exposes the undemocratic nature of the ballot under the mullahs’ rule.

The report by the Brussels-based International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ), entitled “A Study of 2016 ‘Elections’ in Iran,” provides insight on the make-up of the theocratic dictatorship and how each branch of government is under the direct authority of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“As opposition parties remained banned and even many current members of the Majlis and former officials of the Islamic Republic were not allowed to stand as candidates, the recent ballot was clearly not democratic, but an ‘election within a selection’ of the ruling clique,” the 14-page report says in its conclusion.

“The controversial nuclear agreement created major tensions within the Iranian elite, and the continued costly participation in the war in Syria has become ever more difficult to sustain. Hence, the regime needed the February elections to produce a clear, near-unanimous result in favour of a strong leader, to be able to command and steer the country in difficult times. But Ayatollah Khamenei, fearing a repeat of the 2009 uprisings, did not risk interfering in the final tally. As a result, the internal fracture widened, and Khamenei failed to regain full control.”

“Meanwhile, the Rouhani/Rafsanjani faction, decimated in the filtering process, will have only a few more members in the Assembly of Experts. Additionally, the new Majlis members are not bound to follow their lead, so for leverage they will have to continue to rely on conservatives as well, as they do now under current Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani.”

“There was no clear winner in these elections, and both sides claim victory, which can only lead to more disputes and further destabilisation of the system. Therefore, one of the conclusions that can be drawn is that the Iranian system as a whole became weaker and more unstable as a result of these elections.”

“The economy, widely seen by analysts as a main issue in these elections, will remain a key factor. The Iranian economy is in dire straits. President Rouhani tried to present the nuclear deal at home as an opportunity to gain foreign investment and improve the lives of ordinary Iranians. However, after nearly three years in power, he has not affected that change, and his administration is feeling growing pressure.”

“A very costly involvement in Syria and Iraq — with up to 60.000 Iranian-sponsored forces involved — drains the Iranian economy. The very powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — entirely under Khamenei’s lead — asserts widespread control of the national economy through an elaborate network of public and affiliated firms. Both sides, Rouhani/Rafsanjani and Khamenei’s hardliners, are on the same page regarding the foreign policy in Syria and Iraq, as they both see these two countries as Iran’s buffer defence zone. Hence, the costs of the involvement in foreign wars will stay high, despite the fact that the depressed oil market and the slow investment will halt the growth of the Iranian economy.”

“The internal repression is unlikely to decrease. ‘Hardliners’ and ‘reformists’ alike have as their main priority the preservation of the Islamic Republic regime. Increasing executions and inhuman punishments will, therefore, inevitably remain a gloomy part of the everyday life of the Iranian people. As Ann Appelbaum wrote in her Washington Post opinion: ‘Regimes that need violence to repress their citizens do not make reliable diplomatic partners. Any ruling clique that fears popular revolt will always, at the end of the day, tailor its foreign policy to the goal of keeping itself in power,'” the report added.

ISJ is a non-profit NGO in Brussels whose membership includes elected parliamentarians, former officials and other dignitaries with an interest to promote human rights, freedom, democracy, peace and stability. Its President is Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a former Vice-President of the European Parliament. ISJ’s campaigns have enjoyed the support of over 4000 parliamentarians on both sides of the Atlantic.