Iran has been holding elections since the founding of the mullahs’ regime following the hijacking of the 1979 anti-monarchical revolution. Western media, however, tend to portray elections in Iran as a struggle between political parties tantamount to what is witnessed on their own soil. This is far from the truth, to say the least.
Key contrasts differentiate elections in western democracies and the process that is actually selection/appointments in Iran. A closer look at the dynamics involved in the Majlis (parliamentary) staged by the mullahs’ regime leads one to realize the entire process is nothing but a sham while true power lies elsewhere.
Unfortunately, as a result, the pro-appeasement circles in the West have for years portrayed the most fascist methods used to claim popular support and a vote of confidence.
The Guardian Council vets all candidates seeking to take part in the parliamentary elections. It is this body that selects the candidates who may run for office. Prior to the upcoming February 21 parliamentary elections in Iran, thousands of candidates, including 90 percent of the so-called reformists and dozens of current MPs, have been disqualified.
There are general requirements for candidacy which include: being a citizen of Iranian origin; over 30 years of age; a Muslim; qualified to be a care-taker of the Republic; and a possessor of both management abilities and a record of religious and political affiliation to the ‘Republic’.
The regime’s laws require all candidates to exhibit “heart-felt and practical allegiance” to absolute clerical rule, the Velayete Faqih, as a precondition for their candidacy. That Guardian Council, comprised of six clerics directly installed by the Supreme Leader, and the latter six members are appointed by the regime’s judiciary chief who is selected by the Supreme Leader.
The Guardians Council’s decisions are based more on political loyalties than the credentials of the candidates, according to Scott Lucas, an Iran specialist at the UK’s Birmingham University.
This leaves no room for opposition forces or anyone with even remotely differing political views from participating in the regime’s political process, further making it a selection. Lack of inclusiveness in elections is one of the factors continuously casting a shadow on Iran’s human rights record.
CONSOLIDATING THE MAJLIS
The election period is short in Iran—usually just around 20 days. The upcoming parliamentary election is scheduled for February 21.
Despite the fact that it is quite obvious that “elections” have no meaning in Iran, various factions of the mullahs’ regime are involved in a constant power dispute. They use the elections farce to both seek their own interests and those of the regime in its entirety by claiming Iran runs a democratic electoral system. This paves the path for even further appeasement by the West.
The recent November 2019 uprising, coupled with the international isolation that the mullahs’ regime is facing like never before, has deprived the mullahs’ regime of even the capacity of enduring such a controlled internal political dispute. Khamenei, by disqualifying a large number of his rival faction candidates, is bound to fill the Majlis (parliament) with members of his own faction.
While Khamenei desperately needs to go through the farce of the parliamentary elections, he also can’t prevent the many problems that emerge when his regime crosses path with democracy. Elections have traditionally been a time of turmoil for the regime, widening rifts among ruling factions and setting the stage for nationwide protests.
Regime officials are deeply engaged in a power struggle. Members of different regime factions see the elections as an opportunity to grab a bigger share of the power and loot the country’s resources.
To add insult to injury, Iranian regime MP Mahmoud Sadeghi revealed new aspects of bribery and collusion in the vetting process of Majlis candidates by tweeting, “In this round of elections middlemen have on some occasions demanded up to 40 billion rials (about $300,000) [to ensure the candidate is] approved. What a parliament it is going to be!”
Other officials have explicitly said that the elections are a sham and that the results have been “engineered” in advance. One media outlet that is close to regime president Hassan Rouhani wrote, “The outcome of the vote for 160 seats in the Majlis (parliament) has been predefined and there’s no competition, not even between the principalists. In 70 other seats, there will be a very weak competition.”
And the former head of Iran’s Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Ali Hashemi, has confirmed that “dirty money” has had a role in deciding the country’s parliamentary elections. Dirty money refers to money collected in the narcotics market and drug smuggling that resurfaces on the political stage, through financial support to candidates, and for urging members of parliament to endorse some particular bills and motions.
In Iran, there is no voter registration or roll. Iranians can vote anywhere as long as they present their national identification book, or Shenasnameh, which is stamped at the polling station.
Once the polling stations are closed, the counting process begins. Neither the general public nor any civil society organization is permitted to monitor the count. This makes it very difficult to audit election results and ensure the integrity of the vote.
Regime officials have already begun threatening against any thought of boycotting the election and political figures seeking to take advantage of the status quo for their faction’s interests at the expense of Khamenei as the supreme leader.
Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the regime’s judiciary, issued open threats, saying, “Anyone who questions the elections is in the enemy’s front.” Raisi’s remarks were aimed at reining in the rivalries between different regime officials, who in their disputes have been revealing facts that prove the corrupt processes and policies that underly the regime’s elections. Raisi’s remarks, however, also shed light on the sensitivity of the current state of the elections for the regime.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE?
On the other hand, the mullahs’ regime is in desperate need of a major voter turnout to claim a vote of confidence from the Iranian people at a time of turmoil.
Khamenei has openly pleaded with the people to participate in the elections.
“First, [the elections] guarantee the country’s security if all the people take part in the election. Why? Because the enemies who threaten the country fear the popular support more than our weapons; Yes, they fear our missiles too, but they fear [the elections] more. Taking part in the election shows the rule’s popular support and that brings security,” Khamenei said.
“Second, it shows the people’s strength,” Khamenei added, while also admitting that “there are problems in the country” and that “our failures have made problems for the people and they have some objections.” But nonetheless, he expects the people to participate in the elections to show the “determination, power and vision of the people,” which in essence translates to “support for the regime.”
While ridiculously calling the regime’s elections “the most honest elections in the world,” Khamenei begged for participation and said, “Some may not like me, but they should vote for the sake of the country’s prestige and security.”
Khamenei’s remarks were a rare acknowledgment to the public hatred targeting the mullahs’ regime in its entirety. In recent months, the common denominator of protests across Iran has been slogans against Khamenei and calls for the overthrow of the regime. “Death to Khamenei,” “Khamenei, resign,” “We don’t want the Islamic Republic,” and other anti-regime slogans that had been considered taboos and severely punished by the regime are now being openly chanted by protesters from all walks of life across Iran.
Therefore, on the domestic front, the regime is faced with an exacerbating existential crisis as the people grow bolder in their calls for regime change. In this context, more than ever, Khamenei needs to put up a show of popular support, both to lift the dwindling spirits of his troops and also to create the grounds to further suppress demonstrations, which are growing more numerous and crowded every day.
Khamenei is not the only official that has been begging the people to take part in the elections. During last week’s Friday prayers, Ali Movahedi Kermani, Khamenei’s representative in Tehran, said, “Let us hope that we don’t hear of a low turnout in the elections.”
Other officials have made similar calls.
The regime also needs this “vote of confidence” as it finds itself amid intensifying international crises. As Khamenei said in his remarks, “The elections solve many of our international problems. The way international observers judge countries and decide to deal with them is very much dependent on these things.”
At the moment, even the mullahs’ traditional allies are finding it increasingly difficult to support this regime. For the proponents of the appeasement policy, siding with a regime that just recently killed 1,500 of its own citizens in the streets of Iran is proving to be very costly.
That’s why the mullahs need more than ever to run the elections and portray a democratic image of their regime, even though they and everyone else know that it’s a travesty of democracy.
While regime officials quarrel among themselves, they weaken the regime in its entirety. This only creates the ground for more nationwide protests by the people of Iran, who are tired and outraged of 41 years of tyranny under the rule of the mullahs and look at every opportunity to come out in the streets and cast their real vote: regime change.
In a nutshell, Khamenei is stuck between a rock and a hard place: On the one hand, he needs a democratic façade both for his domestic and foreign policies, while on the other, his regime has no capacity to adopt anything that has to do with democracy.
Iranian opposition President Maryam Rajavi, head of the coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has described boycotting the “illegitimate” Majlis (parliamentary) elections as a “patriotic duty.”
The regime is planning wholesale fraud and rigging. Mostafa Mirsalim, affiliated with Khamenei’s faction, has already foretold the participation of “at least 70 percent” of eligible voters. Contradicting the rival faction, on January 27, Rouhani referred to systematic rigging in the election. “In any case, we could not make the election electronic… What is this, someone writes on a ballot, then drops it in a box, someone reads it, another person marks a ledger, it is not known what is real and what is marked. Then after we have recorded all [the ballots], at the very end, when they want to compile all the votes, what kind of funny business will take place… Many elections run into problems during the compilation of the ballots.”
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), described the aggravating crisis and schism at the top of the regime over the election charade a manifest reflection of another deadly impasse the regime is facing. She said the complete purge of the rival faction’s candidates is a clear sign of the ruling religious fascism’s inevitable retrenchment in the face of the surging uprisings and the crisis of overthrow.
Mrs. Rajavi emphasized that the Iranian people have cast their true vote in the November 2019 and January 2020 uprisings with chants of “Death to the principle of the velayat-e faqih – Death to Khamenei.”
They will boycott the mullahs’ illegitimate election more than before. Boycotting this farce is a patriotic duty and the Iranian nation’s pledge to the martyrs of the Iranian people, especially the 1,500 martyrs of the November uprising. It also reflects the demands of the January 2020 uprising of the people and students for the overthrow of the illegitimate ruling theocracy in its entirety.
The people and students chanted “Death to Khamenei – Death to the dictator – Death to the principle of the velayat-e faqih – Death to the oppressor, be it the shah or the leader,” demonstrating that they seek a future without the shah and the mullahs, and one based on democracy and popular sovereignty.