Special Q&A With Ali Safavi on the Upcoming so Called Parliamentary Election in Iran
Ali Safavi from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
Welcome to our special Q and A on the upcoming so-called Parliamentary election in Iran. Our guest is Mr. Ali Safavi from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Let’s begin with this question:
When we are talking about elections, usually elections in a democratic system come to mind. Now the question is, how are the elections conducted in Iran, and is this some sort of democracy?
Ali Safavi: Thanks for having me. In response to your question, I must say absolutely not. Elections in Iran are a travesty of the electoral process. You have, according to the Constitution, a vetting body called the Guardian Council. It has 12 members, six of whom are appointed by an unelected supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and the other six, supposedly lawyers, are appointed by the Judiciary Chief, who is himself appointed by the supreme leader. So, you have an unelected supreme leader, an unelected vetting body, which basically supervises the election, determines the qualifications of the candidates, it picks them and then says, now chooses. Now, the criteria for picking the candidates is that they must demonstrate according to article 28 of the electoral law, their heartfelt and practical commitment and adherence to the principle of the velayat-e faqih, which is the absolute clerical rule. So as such, this process cannot escape the thick and palpable air of illegitimacy, and therefore it is by no means legitimate, and by no means an election. It is more a masquerade than anything else.
This leads us to the second question, so why does this regime bother with the concept of election. What does it gain from it?
Ali Safavi: Well, the mullahs have used the electoral system or the elections basically to project a semblance of democracy. Naturally, they have used this process to gain a tremendous amount of political and economic concessions from the West. While all the candidates in the parliamentary election, when it comes to fundamental issues facing this regime, domestic suppression, pillaging and plundering of the nation’s wealth, export of terrorism, warmongering, intervention in neighboring countries, the nuclear weapons program, and of course their ballistic missile program, (they are in total agreement), they are dubbed as moderates versus the hardliners. Of course, this cat and mouse game, first of all, allows them to gain concessions from their western interlocutors, but at the same time, allows those who pursue a policy of appeasement to justify giving economic and political concessions to the regime. Otherwise, of course, it would be viewed as a totalitarian regime, which is the reality it is. But with this election masquerade, it tries to sort of deny that it is indeed a totalitarian state.
This year, most of so-called reformists’ candidates have been disqualified. Why is that, and what is their latest status?
Ali Safavi: The reason that Khamenei as the supreme leader has chosen to disqualify so many candidates from the rival faction, the so-called reformists, has to do with the tremendous domestic, regional and international crises the regime is facing. Domestically, there were two major uprisings in Iran, one in November of 2019, which spread to 191 cities, and another one in January 2020, which covered some 19 provinces. And is all of these protests and in all of these cities, the hundreds of thousands who came into the streets, among them, of course, many young people and women, chanted “death to Khamenei,” “death to Rouhani,” clearly demonstrating that the Iranian people will not be satisfied with anything less than the overthrow of this regime. Secondly, in the region, the regime has suffered major blows. As you know, the regime’s second pillar of survival has been its policy of exporting terrorism and fundamentalism beyond Iranian borders. Now with the uprising in Iraq, the widespread protest movement in Lebanon, that pillar is shaking. In a sense, the regime’s strategic depth has suffered a blow. Add to that the elimination of Qassem Soleimani, the terror master, who was the point man to pursue that policy, you can see that the regime is in a very critical state. Now, all of this must be seen in the context of a changing international environment where the forty-year policy of appeasement pursued by western countries, and particularly the United States, seems to be changing. With the new administration in Washington, the policy pursued by the previous administration has been discarded, and no longer we have a situation where at critical moments the American administration rushes to the aid of the Iranian regime. The policy of maximum pressure seems to be working; the Iranian regime has been denied the resources, most importantly oil revenues, with which it has pursued domestic suppression and regional warmongering and interference. As such, Khamenei needs to close ranks to withstand these major crises, irremediable crises at home and abroad. And that explains why, in a sense, you have a major purge of candidates from the rival faction.
What is the importance of this year’s election for the regime, and how is it different from four years ago?
Ali Safavi: In some respects, and I think I alluded to some of this in the answer to your previous question, the regime is facing a crisis that it has never faced before. It is what I would call, a crisis of being overthrown. Its strategic reserves have run out, both financially, politically and otherwise. And in this sense, the elections this year are far more important for the regime than before. And this is reflected in the comments and remarks of very official of the regime, even people like Rouhani, whose faction’s candidates have been mostly disqualified. For the participation, a large turnout is critical to show to the people of the world that they are still popular in Iran, can preserve the system and move forward. That is why many of the regime leaders, like Khamenei and others like the Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi, have said that this election is important for us because it sort of ensures and secures the survival of the regime and its security. And they have said that anybody who disseminates and promulgates apathy and encourages, sort of, non-participation would be considered an enemy of the state.
How should one react to the election? Should anyone participate? And what is the position of Iranian resistance?
Ali Safavi: Well, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, has said that it is the patriotic duty of all Iranians to boycott this election; this is their bond with the martyrs of the Iranian people, particularly the 1,500 martyrs of the November 2019 uprising. Now, in respect of the first part of your question, let me say that this is not an election, it is a selection. It is illegitimate. As I said earlier, it is a travesty of the electoral process. So, it must be rejected outright not only by Iranians in Iran, who will of course boycott, and there is every indication that they will not go to the polls but also anyone who is outside of Iran and is watching the situation in Iran. They should also speak out and call for the total boycott of the election.
How do the Iranian people feel about all of this?
Ali Safavi: Well, the Iranian people want regime change. And this was reflected in their chants, not only in January 2020, in November 2019, but even in previous years, like the uprising in 162 cities, we witnessed in December 2017 and January 2018. Their chants were death to the dictator, death to Khamenei, death to Rouhani, and they have said the time for the mullahs to go has come. As such, they will boycott this election. Interestingly, one of the agencies affiliated with the Iranian regime state-run radio and television conducted a poll in which 82 percent of those who responded said they will not take part in the election, which clearly indicates that this will be a total boycott and Iranians are ready to move on from this regime and are looking to a democratic and free future.