Iran Election 2021: List of Candidates Reinforces Citizens’ Rejection of the Regime
“Reformist, Hardliner, The Game is Over.”
OIAC-May 28, 2021
- The final list of candidates for the Iranian regime’s sham presidential election was announced on Tuesday, May 25. Those candidates’ identities confirm what the Iranian Resistance has long said: that the election itself will be a mere farce, lending a thin veneer of legitimacy to a process that is effectively the installation of a pre-selected successor to the regime’s current President Hassan Rouhani.
- The leading candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, was very nearly given that position four years ago. His ascendance was very clearly backed by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The questionable nature of the Iranian regime’s so-called electoral process was made a matter of public record throughout the globe in 2009, when thousands upon thousands of Iranians participated in protests in response to the reselection of the regime’s then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
- Fearing Iranian people’s uprising amid the regime’s infightings, Khamenei in 2017 selected Rouhani. The regime’s sham presidential election also showed a general decrease in voter participation – a feature that the regime officials attempted to cover up by extending voting hours, manipulating statistics, and staging crowded scenes at polling places using members of the militia group known as the Basij.
- By the middle of January 2018, well over 100 cities and towns were participating in a protest movement that featured chants of both “death to the dictator,” in reference to Khamenei, and “death to Rouhani,” the so-called rival to “hardline” faction. Protesters also explicitly rejected the notion of significant political differences between the regime’s two factions, saying, “reformist, hardliner, the game is over.”
- The implications of that promise would not be openly tested until more than two years later, at which point the regime held its mid-term elections to select a slate of governors and members of parliament around the midway point of Rouhani’s second term. In the meantime, though, the January 2018 uprising inspired scattered protests that were described by the Iranian opposition leader Mrs. Maryam Rajavi as “a year full of uprisings,” and that movement’s slogans were later adapted to another, even larger nationwide uprising in November 2019.
- The latter uprising emerged spontaneously in nearly 200 localities, eliciting panic from regime authorities and leading to one of the worst single crackdowns on dissent in recent years. In a matter of only days, over 1,500 people were killed after the Revolutionary Guards opened fire on numerous crowds of peaceful protesters. But far from silencing dissent over the long term, these killings only served to reinforce the public’s simultaneous rejection of “hardliners” and “reformists” within the regime, neither of which had acted to restrain the IRGC or even criticized the violent response and in fact participated in oppressing people.
- Ahead of the February 2020 parliamentary elections, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) urged citizens to avoid the polls as a way of denying legitimacy to the ruling system. MEK’s “Resistance Units” conveyed this message with posters and graffiti messages, often accompanied by images of Mrs. Rajavi, that framed an electoral boycott as a “vote for regime change.” The MEK had promoted that same message ahead of most other electoral competitions including Rouhani’s original campaign and his reelection campaign. But the MEK’s calls for nationwide boycotted has been much more successful in the wake of the 2018 and 2019 uprisings, which it was credited with leading.
- In recent weeks, the same calls for regime change have been audible in at least 250 different localities where Resistance Units are active. This has seemingly caused regime authorities to lose faith in their ability to manufacture an image of the system’s legitimacy by either encouraging widespread participation in the June 18 election or simply falsifying reports of the public response. In order to unify his regime in face of the possible uprising, Khamenei, the Guardian Council, and the regime as a whole have reversed their prior strategy by prioritizing the outcome over the process in this election.
- State media now acknowledge that people will boycott the regime’s sham elections. Some claimed that the most optimistic projections for voter turnout are between 40 and 60 percent, while others have offered estimates as low as 25 percent.
- Unsurprisingly, all of those who passed the vetting by the Guardian Council were members of Khamenei’s faction, though not even all prominent figures of Khamenei’s faction. In this case, the selection process removed the individual who was most likely to present a challenge to Khamenei’s policy of contraction– former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
- Iranians rejected both factions and the regime in its entirety in massive numbers via the uprisings of 2018 and 2019, as well as last year’s electoral boycott. They are now poised to do the same again, with a new boycott which has been explicitly endorsed by various groups of protesters in recent weeks. These have been focused on a range of specific issues such as the rapidly shrinking value of retiree pensions and the ongoing effects of a government-run investment scam. But by aligning themselves with a boycott movement led by the MEK, they have all implied endorsement of the platform long promoted by that group and its parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
- The only meaningful solution to Iran’s problems is regime change leading to free and fair elections within a system based on principles of secularism and pluralism. As such, the Iranian Resistance rejects Raisi’s pending installation as Iran’s next president, but both the Iranian Resistance and people would similarly reject any figure whom the theocratic system attempted to promote from within.