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State Officials in Iran Criticize Election Engineering, Experts Warn Khamenei

Meeting between the Guardian Council and Interior Ministry in early 2024

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On Sunday, June 9, through the Guardian Council and the Ministry of Interior of Ebrahim Raisi’s government, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced the names of those he deemed eligible to participate in the upcoming presidential sham elections. This development left many officials disillusioned as they faced the harsh realities of their regime once again. In response, several officials and state media outlets criticized the Guardian Council, while some experts reacted to the exclusion of their preferred candidates and warned Khamenei about the consequences of his chosen path.

Ali Larijani, a former high-ranking official and Khamenei’s advisor, responded with dismay to the Guardian Council’s decision. He stated, “The reason I entered the election arena was due to the critical conditions, especially the severe economic situation and the sensitive international position, particularly the pressure of sanctions. However, despite the positive opinion of responsible institutions and the verdict of the Judiciary, the Guardian Council leveraged some past claims with an opaque mechanism, creating obstacles in the path of such cooperation.”

Eshaq Jahangiri, the former first Vice President under Hassan Rouhani, also demanded the publication of the reasons for his disqualification. Abbas Akhoundi, a former Minister of Roads and Urban Development, wrote in a complaint to the Guardian Council, “My disqualification is unjust and lacks any legal basis!”

On June 10, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, former mayor of Tehran, stated, “There is no chance for reformists! Unless there is a significant shift in the gray votes! This situation draws people away from politics, and in a society that is not political, reformists and conservatives have no chance. Only opportunists can thrive in such a scenario.”

Meanwhile, some outlets close to Khamenei are trying to generate hype, encouraging insiders to keep faith in the remaining candidates and not to turn their backs on what the regime’s Supreme Leader considers a vital show of social capital.

On the same day, the state-run newspaper Farheekhtegan, affiliated with Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s advisor and former foreign minister, headlined, “Predictable Result or Election Shock?” The daily wrote, “With the Guardian Council’s announcement and Larijani’s disqualification, what will be the fate of Saeed Jalili and Mohammad-Bagher Qalibaf? Whose vote base shares more with Alireza Zakani? Can Masoud Pezeshkian rally the reformist voter base?”

Conversely, Masoud Rezaee, an intelligence operative speaking as a “historical researcher” on media platforms, dismissed the theory that avoiding the exclusion of undesirable candidates would increase voter turnout. He stated, “If we want to increase participation through these methods, we expose society to a volcano. We create an explosive situation with intense mutual hostility. The outcome of such scenarios is nothing but chaos and conflict. When society becomes highly inflamed, it resembles a powder keg; a single spark can ignite it.”

In the same program, the state TV host doubled down on Rezaee’s remarks, adding, “Exacerbating false divisions in society and polarizing it ultimately leads to violent unrest. While differences of opinion and taste always exist, some elements benefit from amplifying these differences and mobilizing street protests under these pretexts.”

Meanwhile, state-affiliated expert Hesam Salamat dared to express what many try to hide behind lip service and false smiles. He warned, “This wounded society can become aggressive at times. It can become intolerant. At some point, it might say that our turn will come. This cycle must be broken. Is Iranian society now fully prepared for this moment? I don’t know. But I do know that many don’t think this way. Many are thinking about revenge. They talk about using streetlamps as gallows for officials or contemplate similar ideas.”