I hope the second part of our discussion on the Iranian Elections of 1960 provides some perspective on why the people’s voice is so critical today. Wouldn’t it be great if Iranians now were able to vote in free and fair elections?
In the years before the 1960 elections, the shah had relied on a tenuous balance between the apathetic masses and a unified elite.
The 1960 elections dismantled this equilibrium, fracturing the solidarity of those elites who had previously been committed to the maintenance of the status quo.
Several groups were particularly important, including the army, aristocratic landlords, large merchants, and tribal and religious leaders.
While each group controlled a concentration of wealth and had significant access to power, they were reactionary, seeking either religious or military domination.
Others felt that — since reform was inevitable — they should consolidate their wealth and transport it to a safe place as quickly as possible.
Another group believed that the only way to maintain wealth was to give some of it up to the new program.
Not surprisingly, their were variations within as well as among the cliques. For example, while the army remained loyal to the shah, differences emerged.
Officers who had acquired great wealth and power under Reza Shah were now retiring in large numbers. Not surprisingly, this faction was extremely conservative, desiring primarily to keep what it had gained. Younger officers. on the other hand, were generally drawn from the middle class and shared the discontent which had become quite visible in events surrounding the Mossadegh crisis.
As the shah moved toward an alteration of the status quo, he inevitably split the support of the officer corps, losing the Old Guard — the group which he had relied on to counter the middle class opposition.
Other elites also felt threatened.
Previously the aristocracy had not required party support to gain a seat in the Majles. Election had been based on personal prominence or concentrated economic control. However, the two party scheme undermined this process.
The new dynamic became visible early on when a group of prominent men announced the formation of a third Independent party.
They proceeded to denounce the conduct of the elections and both parties in the strongest terms and received great attention in the press. Their charges received as much if not more publicity than the campaigning of the official parties. Then numerous other individuals and factions announced “independent” candidates of their own, including a slate backed by a group of senior retired Army officers.
Subsequently, the agreement between Mardom and Melliun broke down, converting Mardom into a true opposition party.
Leaders of the Mossadegh era reemerged, organizing popular movements against the elections.
This meant that the government felt that it had no alternative but to manipulate the elections so as to prevent the victory of independent candidates
In the end,
the results of the Tehran elections were never announced and at the Shah’s request all of the new deputies from the provinces tendered their resignations.
As the US increased pressure for reform, the old balance was destroyed.
Elites became divided in their support for the shah, and the opposition was empowered. This framework set the stage for events of the mid Cold War period.
The first of these events involved the shah’s attempts to move forward with his White Revolution.