Who won the Iranian presidential election?

According to an Iranian government website, 15 million eligible people sat out Iran's 2017 presidential election.  For the 2021 presidential election, this number has doubled to roughly 30 million.  Of this number, a significant proportion of those who voted in the 2021 presidential election cast blank or deformed ballots.  Believe it or not, these invalid ballots contributed to 14% of the total votes, ranking second place in the final tally.

What's even more amazing is that the Iranian government, known for its dishonesty and opacity, released these numbers.  This is the same government that hid details about the downed Ukrainian plane in Tehran and about the death toll from the widespread uprising in mid-November 2019.  Nor does anyone think Iran has been truthful and transparent regarding the number of people who have died because of COVID-19.

Again, according to regime statistics, the presidential election participation in Tehran's capital was only 26 percent.  It means that only one in four people eligible to vote in Tehran cast their ballots, and of that, 12 percent belonged to invalid votes.  This situation is genuinely unprecedented.

The non-participation of about 30 million people in the elections and the casting of about four million invalid ballots in the ballot boxes have broken the records of non-participation in this election and invalid ballots.  In other words, about 58% did not participate in the election, which is the lowest turnout in all post-revolutionary elections.

For the last many years, the regime has had to deal with protesters across Iran who have questioned the regime's legitimacy and threatened its survival.  The regime must be deeply worried that so many people sat out the election or cast deliberately invalid ballots.

From another perspective, given that the fix was already in when the supreme leader unilaterally disqualified candidates he disliked, can we even believe that 42 percent of the population voted for Ebrahim Raisi?  After all, they knew the victory was a foregone conclusion whether or not they voted.  That makes it reasonable to suspect that the 42% who "voted" for Raisi may also be a big lie.  The Iranian opposition MEK, citing 1,200 reports from 400 cities in Iran and thousands of videos and photos from polling stations, declared that the Iranian regime's 42% figure is at least five times the actual number of votes cast for Raisi.

Contrary to those who claim that the turnout in Western countries is also low, it should be said that turnout in Western countries is around 60 to 70%.  Furthermore, non-participation in the voting process is considered a sin.  The people in Western countries choose to vote or not, with no pressure or intimidation.  In Iran, people are intimidated, harassed, and threatened to vote.

Iranian people must be seriously unhappy not to vote.  Khamenei's fatwa (religious decree) banning the purchase of COVID vaccines from America and Britain, combined with general repression and resistance activities in Iran urging people not to vote, seems to have been strong enough to push a major election boycott.

The election boycott sends two clear messages.  First, the people have absolutely no trust that voting will affect their future.  Second, Khamenei's decision to disqualify the candidates at the outset of the election based on his desire to maintain complete control so disregarded the will of the people that they have completely disengaged from the government.

Following the uprisings in November 2019, the Iranian regime has two distinct choices.  The first choice is to go some way to listening to, and even acting on, the protesters' demands.  That will decrease the regime's control and result in the people making greater future demands.  The Iranian authorities will almost have to provide answers to the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, the Iran-Iraq war that resulted in more than one million deaths and billions wasted, Raisi's record on human rights, and his role in the 1988 massacre.  In other words, this choice will effectively destroy the regime.

The second choice is to ramp up violence and repression against the people.  Khamenei chose the second scenario in the parliamentary elections in March 2017, when he disqualified most non-loyal candidates.  This year, appointing Raisi to the presidency makes sense to the regime as another way to maintain complete control.  Khamenei wants to gather all his loyalists under one umbrella and one repressive policy.

However, what the regime could not control was the people's will, expressed through passive resistance, rather than action.  They won the presidential election when they said no to Iran's forced choice.  By doing so, they showed their determination to achieve a free and prosperous Iran.

Image: Ebrahim Raisi "wins" the election (cropped).  YouTube screen grab.

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