Genuine choice and constructive instruments for collective decision-making underpin democratic and fair elections. They are thus the most apparent ensign of a political system’s legitimacy. In Iran, however, both genuine choice and instruments through which the public becomes tangibly visible are out of reach, which explains why the Iranian people reject the political system as entirely illegitimate.
In recent weeks, a growing spectrum of disillusioned sectors, whose misery has been drastically deepened by the ravages of the coronavirus and vast state mismanagement and corruption, have publicly and bravely called for a boycott of the June 18 presidential election farce.
Political science scholars have long noted that “elections” and authoritarian regimes are not necessarily incompatible. Plenty of dictatorial regimes have flouted “election” masquerades to hit back at critics. In fact, dictators use the pageantry of elections to portray an undeserved sense of legitimacy. Under tyranny, election turns into selection.
In Iran, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his office have monopolized the vast majority of political, economic, and social resources. The presidential election is a practical conduit for Khamenei to hand out a small share of the spoils of war against the Iranian people to various factions within the regime.
The Iranian people do not buy the regime’s games, as has been evident in their slogans of “Reformists, hardliners, the game is now ever.”
This year’s election comes after a series of major social upheavals, including 2017, 2018, and 2019 uprisings, which shook the regime in its entirety. Many seasoned observers believe that the theocracy is at the weakest point in its 40-year-old history.
Khamenei’s strategic reserves are depleted, with the remaining lot spent on an existential struggle to survive. His regime is incapable of responding to a complex web of transforming public demands while at the same time it is increasingly proving powerless to strike a sustainable equilibrium among internal warring factions to secure long-term stability. Meanwhile, more public protests are lurking in the background, threatening the regime’s future even further.
Against this backdrop, the regime has lined up candidates implicated in four decades of terrorism, crime against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and plunder. The mass murderer Ebrahim Raisi, the IRGC commander-turned Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and their cohorts are all cut from the same cloth.
Khamenei’s preferred candidate is mass murderer Ebrahim Raisi, currently Khamenei’s favorite and the regime’s Judiciary Chief. The regime recognized his ruthless penchant early on when he became the prosecutor of the “revolutionary court” of the city of Karaj at the age of 20.
In 1988, as Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran, he was one of the four officials Khomeini appointed to carry out his infamous fatwa to massacre imprisoned dissidents. As many as 30,000 political prisoners, primarily affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), were summarily executed within a few months.
The other, IRGC Brig. Gen. Ali Larijani played a significant role in the eight-year destructive Iran-Iraq war. As the head of the state broadcasting network (IRIB) for a decade, Larijani became infamous for censorship.
Larijani’s chief security officer at the state broadcasting network was Ghafour Darjazi, implicated in the assassination of Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Italy, in Rome in March 1993. As Parliament Speaker, Larijani appointed IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Jafari Sahraroudi as his chief of staff. The latter was implicated in the assassination of Kurdish dissident Abdolrahman Qassemlou.
To think that the upcoming election farce presents the Iranian people with a genuine choice is an insult to their intellect and legitimizes the brutal theocracy’s crimes. Their choice is to boycott the mullahs’ election masquerade. As they have expressed time and again, their vote is to overthrow the fundamentalist theocracy, foment a democratic revolution, and establish people’s sovereignty. What is the international community’s vote?