The Upcoming Iranian Elections
The upcoming elections in Iran bear no good news for the Iranian people, who have always sought political and social freedoms, or for claims of a "new relationship" between Iran and the West falsely ascribed to the recent nuclear deal intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Before any votes are cast in the ballot boxes, diehard “Death-to-America” chanting supporters of supreme leader Ali Khamenei – who has the final word on all important state matters – are showing there is no sign of change coming from within Iran. Even the so-called "moderates" backing President Hassan Rouhani have seen 99% of their candidates disqualified in the two important elections. Placed together, this clearly signals no shifts or “reforms” from inside Iran can be expected from these polls, even after the “landmark” nuclear accord with the West and the expectations of ordinary Iranians rightfully raised.
Due to the deceptive measures and fraud that characterizes the regime ruling Iran, the February 26 elections will most likely result in the hardliners winning a more powerful position. A manipulated elimination process in Iran grants enormous power to a small group of people who can decide nearly everything about who can run.
Despite a factional political delusion and while the elections in Iran can hardly be described as anything similar to a Western-style democratic poll, a 290-member body called the “Majlis” (parliament) and 88-member Assembly of Experts are up for grabs. The latter is responsible for selecting a new “velayat-e faqih”, or supreme religious leader, a post currently held by Ali Khamenei. He is now 76 years of age and reports indicate he is suffering from major illnesses, but will remain in his post as a virtual king until his death. Around 12,000 people from across Iran signed up to take part in the parliamentary election only to see more than 7,000 disqualified by the 12-member Guardian Council. This is a body with six candidates appointed directly by the supreme leader, with the six remaining chosen by the judiciary, known for its loyalty to Khamenei and leaving no doubt in the end results.
Recently, nine political parties leaning towards the faction of Rouhani and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and heavyweight inside the Iranian regime political spectrum, complained about the disqualification of 2,700 so-called “moderate” candidates for the parliament, with only 166 candidates being approved for the Assembly of Experts.
Last week, reports indicated that even the grandson of Islamic Republic of Iran founder, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, could not prove his loyalty to the mullahs’ ideology, as the hardliners continue to show they will not back down from their current position of control and intend to fight head on any possible move for change. Reports indicate Hassan Khomeini’s credentials were rejected due to his close relationship with the Rafsanjani-Rouhani group. A large number of candidates were actually sent home due to their political viewpoints, Human Rights Watch reported, citing reviewed documents.
Iran is far from being anything rightly defined as a democracy. Rouhani is a byproduct of this regime, without any ideas for real change. The Iranian people are truly yearning for an end to their country’s long-running isolation. Out of no other choice and in a voice of protest against the hardline establishment a very small number supported Rouhani back in 2013. However, with sanctions being lifted, the Iranian nation now has high expectations on which Rouhani has failed to deliver, even involving his campaign promises to finally grant them their God-given rights, such as freedom of speech and the release of thousands of political prisoners and journalists who remain suffering in Iran’s dungeons, according to various human rights bodies. Iran has the highest number of executions per capita in the world, not to forget the number of juveniles, according to a damning new Amnesty International report.
The tight process of selecting candidates has launched a very vivid and dangerous dispute inside Iran. Khamenei himself has issued warnings against any relaxation of the anti-Western rhetoric this regime is notorious for. He strongly supported the vetting process and has already projected that his rivals will not enjoy any actual influence in the near future. Again, indications of any true change in Iran are hard to find. Despite the fact that candidates are allowed to demand an appeal for their disqualifications, any meaningful alteration in the results is hardly to be expected. Consider the controversial 2009 election, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was literally selected by Khamenei as the president and millions of people poured into the streets demanding their votes be respected, leaving the establishment no choice but to order a major and deadly crackdown.
With no change in sight for the Iranian people, the result of the upcoming so-called elections in Iran will have unprecedented consequences for the ruling regime and the entire Middle East region.
Amir Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and supporter of democratic regime change in Iran.