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Iran’s regime receives twin blows on elections day

Iranian regmie's parliament (File photo)
Iranian regmie's parliament (File photo)

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, February 22, 2020—After much fanfare and publicity, the Iranian regime finally held its much-heralded parliamentary elections on Friday. Despite calls by the highest officials for the people to vote, reports by citizen journalists and MEK activists showed a nationwide boycott of the regime’s sham elections.

Iranian Resistance Units, a network of activists linked to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), visited thousands of polling stations across Iran. In most cases, the stations were either empty or attended by very few people. In some places, intentional delays by polling officials caused minor queues.

The regime’s propaganda efforts did not prove effective enough to create the impression of high voter turnout that the mullahs had desired.

The figures declared by the regime, inflated as they are, say a lot about the unprecedented reality of the elections. According to regime officials, by 11:30 am, 5 million of the 58 million eligible voters had cast their ballots—less than 10 percent. By 12:00 pm, officials declared that the turnout had spiked to 7 million, and at 1:00 pm they declared that they had amassed 8 million votes. Regardless of the fact that such sudden spike in the number of voters is very suspicious, but even if we considered this to be the real turnout, it still represents a small fraction of the entire voter population.

Regime officials also explicitly admitted to the cold and uneventful elections and near-empty polling stations. In his visit to several polling stations, Mahmoud Alavi, the intelligence minister, said, “I hope the people will come to the polling stations in the final voting hours and we will have an acceptable turnout.”

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said, “I hope that in this round of elections, the people participate with more passion in the final hours.”

These remarks show that the actual turnout was much less than what the regime had wished for and the people had no desire to take part in the sham elections of the mullahs. Further underlining the poor turnout is the extension of the voting deadline from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm.

Even the select few foreign reporters who had been allowed to cover the elections after having been thoroughly vetted by the regime reported very low participation in the elections. “The machinery of legislative elections is up and running, no question, but I have yet to see anything like serious interest in this vote among the people,” an NPR reporter said from Tehran.

What does the low voter turnout mean for the regime?

Before the elections, regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei described voting as “a matter of dignity for the establishment.” Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, a senior cleric and former presidential candidate, warned, “Not voting will cause the growth of dissident forces.”

Hessamodin Ashna, the advisor to regime president Hassan Rouhani, warned, “Not voting will result in more sanctions, an increase in the possibility of military invasion and an increase in the destructive operations of the MEK.”

Foreign minister Javad Zarif stressed, “The passionate participation of the people in the elections will be the biggest diplomatic asset of the establishment and will strengthen the hand of our diplomats.”

As we had argued before, following the November 2019 and January 2020 uprisings, the regime was in dire need of a quasi-vote of confidence through a huge turnout in order to continue the repression of protests and pursue its destructive foreign policies.

In this light, the failure to create the impression of a high voter turnout was a huge defeat for the regime and it will weaken the mullahs both at home and in their confrontation with the international community. Accordingly, it is a big win for the millions of Iranian people who want regime change, the Iranian resistance and the Resistance Units who have been keeping the flame of uprisings alive despite the regime’s heavy crackdown on protests.

The double whammy of the FATF blacklist

While the regime was struggling to save face in the widespread boycott of the elections, news broke that the France-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international body that oversees anti-money laundering and terrorism finance, blacklisted Tehran for failing to comply with its rules.

The move was another blow to the already failing international stature of the regime. It also showed that even the proponents of the appeasement policy are losing hope in this regime.

Despite several extensions of its deadline and even though it was in dire need of an economic lifeline to escape international sanctions, the regime failed to pass the necessary bills to become conformant with the FATF rules. The truth is that financial transparency will further expose the regime’s illicit financing of terrorism across the Middle East and its illegal measures to circumvent sanctions. So it had effectively found itself at a very complicated crossroad: Either become conformant to international rules and expose its illicit activities, which would result in more sanctions; or defy the international community to continue its illicit activities, and again suffer more sanctions.

At this critical juncture, it is important that the international community stands with the people of Iran in their quest to bring democracy and freedom to their country and to rid the world of the biggest threat to global peace and security. As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said, “The international community must cease offering any assistance to, and refrain from engaging in, any financial transactions with the mullahs’ regime and should stand by the Iranian people and their aspirations for regime change and establishment of freedom and democracy. This is imperative for combating terrorism and money laundering, and bringing peace and tranquillity to the region.”