Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran
This study focuses on the democratization in Iran from 1909 to 2013. I show that Iranian society experienced four waves of democratization. I argue that although Iran has experienced long-run processes of democratic change, the country has not yet been able to establish a democratic system. Meanwhile, these long-run processes of democratic change have led to long-lasting institutional change, realizing some of the minimum criteria of the transition process, including periodic elections. I set out a theory by which democratization increases parallel to the degree of socio-economic development. Importantly, I argue that successful democratization hinges on political elites strategically choosing to refrain from repression. The strategic choices made by the élites determine the main process of the transition stage. I use a novel dataset collected from 33 parliamentary and 11 presidential elections. Using multiple linear regression model, I find that socio-economic development and elite agency explain 0.42 percent of the variation in electoral participation and 0.62 percent of the variation in electoral competition. When elites decide to repress oppositional forces, the democratic transition index decreases by an average of 13.93 units.