In mass protests spanning from December 2017 to January 2020, Iranians from all walks of life were heard to condemn the existing political system with slogans such as “hardliners, reformists: the game is over.” The slogan turned out to be prescient, as the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in all matters of the Iranian regime, brought a rather definitive end to the “game” in advance of Friday’s presidential election.
The terms “hardliner” and “reformist” refer to the two factions inside the clerical regime, but recent protests have served to underscore how much of a misnomer those terms are. The “game” in question is a four-decade-long power-sharing arrangement between two sets of officials whose ideological identities are fundamentally the same. To the extent that there is any difference in the policies implemented by “hardliners” and “reformists,” it is only a matter of different tactical approaches to the same long-term goals, namely, to preserve the regime and have more share of the power.
Before campaigning had even begun for the presidential election, it was already abundantly clear that Ebrahim Raisi was a shoo-in for the presidency. The Iranian resistance drew that conclusion as soon as Khamenei signaled his personal endorsement of Raisi’s candidacy.
And that conclusion was verified in the wake of the vetting process, which saw the Guardian Council disqualifying every major “reformist” candidate as well as hardliners like former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, whose name recognition might have divided the vote even among Khamenei’s loyalists.
In any previous election, figures like Larijani would have been perfectly acceptable to the Guardian Council. But by the time candidate registration began for Friday’s election, Khamenei had clearly resolved to exert tighter control over the process and consolidate power among figures who were not only loyal but could be counted upon to serve as direct agents of his will. In fact, this trend had already begun by February of last year, when the regime held its parliamentary election and the Guardian Council excluded virtually everyone who did not fit neatly into the camp of “hardliners.”
Both elections served to reaffirm the public perception of competitive politics in the Iranian regime as a “game” that unelected authorities were free to call an end to at any time.
Last year’s parliamentary election yielded the Iranian regime’s lowest-ever voter turnout up to that point, and from all indications, that record was broken on Friday with the mass boycott of the presidential race. This mass rejection of the political system is significant in its own right but is all the more significant because it is bound up with explicit calls for regime change. “Resistance Units” affiliated with the MEK promoted the electoral boycott in precisely those terms from early April until the eve of the election, and countless protests by ordinary civilians endorsed that message with slogans declaring that participants “will not vote anymore” for as long as the current system remains in place.
The apparent success of Friday’s electoral boycott puts the Iranian regime and the Iranian people on a collision course with further civil unrest.
“The boycott proved and showed the world that the Iranian people’s only vote is to overthrow this medieval regime. The nationwide boycott is the groundswell of the martyrs’ sacrifices and is a reflection of the Iranian people’s great campaign for justice.” Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of NCRI, said in a statement, adding, “The religious dictatorship is in a downward spiral and must be swept aside. Emerging out of this sham election will be a regime that is more disgraced, vulnerable, and fragile. It is bound to perpetuate greater crimes with the henchman of the 1988 massacre (Ebrahim Raisi). But, it will certainly be overthrown by the Iranian people’s uprising and the Army of Freedom. Freedom and a democratic republic are the Iranian people’s inalienable rights.”
The persistence of recent unrest in Iran indicates that Iranian people will continue their struggle to overthrow a regime that the mass murderers rule. As Mrs. Rajavi stated in a statement, “There is no longer any justification for the international community to engage or to appease a regime whose president is one of the worst criminals against humanity in modern times. The world must stand firmly against the ruling religious fascism, and in solidarity with the Iranian people and their demand for the overthrow of this regime and the establishment of a democratic republic.”
The henchman of the #1988Massacre and a criminal against humanity becomes the clerical regime’s president, which signals the regime’s impasse as it inches closer to being overthrown. Raisi must face justice in an international tribunal. #Iranhttps://t.co/bSql6IzfgM
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) June 19, 2021