Despite Biden's efforts, the mullahs may be in trouble

After years of struggle, Iranians finally gained the right to vote.  Their first election was held in August 1906.  However, one of the complaints Iranians had about the Pahlavi regime was that was the king would decide who would become prime minister or designated candidates for important government positions.  After the Shah's fall in 1979, the Islamic Republic increased this election engineering.  Iranians now call them "magical elections."  This year, though, Iranians are done with magic — and even Biden lifting some sanctions may not help.

Iran will hold a presidential election on June 18, 2021.  As always, Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, using so-called "legal" methods, will pick the head of the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the president.  The way this works is that the "Approving Council" filters out the candidates, and then the "Guardian Council" mass eliminates the candidates in favor of the candidate closest to the supreme leader.

In March, Khamenei himself acknowledged in a speech for the Iranian new year that there are complaints about how the Guardian Council operates.  He urged Iranians to ignore them.  "Our enemies want to destabilize the elections, and for this reason, they accuse the organizers of electoral engineering or accuse the Guardian Council or try to discourage people from voting by inducing the idea of 'people's ineffectiveness.'"

But the main issue in this year's election is something entirely new: the distrust the Iranians feel for the government of Khamenei and President Rouhani has created a gulf too wide to close.  Many no longer consider the government legitimate, leading some to think that the situation is ripe for another revolution.  This is yet another aspect of how weak the regime is.  These are some indicators of that weakness:

Iranian's economic conditions are getting worse every day with increasing prices, inflation of 65%, government corruption, and the closure of thousands of industrial units and production workshops.  Unemployment, the disappearance of the middle class, and the poor's crushing poverty have up to half of Iranians living in shantytowns.  This phenomenon has pushed the Iranian economy to the verge of collapse.  (The National Council of Resistance of Iran, while a partisan activist site, has articles with data about Iran's economic despair.)

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on Iran.  Again, information comes from opposition sites (such as this one), but the facts do seem to bear out claims that the mullahs have handled COVID disastrously.  People say Khamenei has used the coronavirus as a defensive shield for the survival of his regime.  This has created deep mistrust between the people and the government in Iran.

When IRGC missiles downed a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing 176 people, and then tried a cover-up, Iran severely downgraded its world standing.

The bloody crackdown on protests in December 2017 and especially in November 2019 in more than 200 cities, where 1,500 people were killed by Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) security forces, also weakened the regime from within.

Many Iranian officials had hoped Biden's victory would mean a return to the 2015 JCPOA.  However, Iran seems to be going out of its way to offend Washington by intensifying its meddling in the region and pushing its nuclear program.  Even though Biden's craven administration just announced that it is lifting some sanctions, it's not clear if that will be enough to save the mullahs.

Khamenei is now pushing to bypass the two leading candidates for president and let it be known that he wants Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's justice minister, in that role.  Raisi was one of the key executioners when Iran massacred over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.  He's not popular with the people.

Khamenei knows that if he cannot get his candidates through the Guardian Council and onto the ballot, he will be badly weakened.  That was the reason for his March speech, insisting that the elections be "uniparty" — meaning his candidates only.  Whether he can make this happen is currently open to questions.

No matter his machinations, the decisive factor will be whether the Iranian people are willing to continue with the mullahs' program.  Eventually, they will be so hungry that they will lose their fear of the IRGC. 

Image: Khamenei and Rouhani.  YouTube screen grab.

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