Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, January 20, 2020—Traditionally, elections have been times of turmoil for the Iranian regime, whose very foundations are in contradiction with elections, voting and anything that has to do with democracy. But this time around, as the parliamentary elections, due in late February, close in, the Iranian regime is faced with a multitude of crises and intensifying problems it can’t solve.
These crises manifest themselves in increasing infighting among different factions of the regime, which disagree on how to prevent the inevitable downfall of their rule and continue to quarrel over stealing the country’s wealth and resources.
In order to save face, regime officials their involvement in important issues such as the recent increase in the price of gasoline and the brutal crackdown on the protests that ensued. They also try to extricate themselves from their regime’s crimes by laying the blame on their rivals and exposing unprecedented aspects of regime-endorsed corruption.
This is a trend that can be observed in remarks made by officials and state-run media in recent weeks and months. After the Guardian Council, the body that oversees elections, disqualified 90 MP candidates, Setareh Sobh, a news website with ties to regime president Hassan Rouhani implicitly threatened to not take part in the elections unless the Council revises its decision.
The Guardian Council has been warning officials to “speak wisely” and insists on not being affected by pressure. Ali Khamenei, the regime’s supreme leader, has called for broad participation in the elections and cautioned officials of measures that will cause disinterest in the parliamentary elections.
Social implications of widening rifts
The power struggle at the highest echelons of power in the run-up to the elections causes rifts in the highest echelons of power in the regime. This, in turn, lays the groundwork for social unrest. The 2009 nationwide uprisings came about as rivalries between regime factions reached a boiling point. The 2017-2018 protests too kickstarted as rivaling factions in the regime were disputing the government’s budget in the parliament.
Now, as the regime nears the parliamentary elections, disarray in its ranks is considerably more intense that in 2009 and 2017, and the society is in an explosive state.
What’s important is that the November uprisings and the student protests in January directly targeted Khamenei himself, and he is in his weakest state. Khamenei has also lost Qasem Soleimani, his right hand, his chief terrorist and the head of the IRGC Quds Force, the main implementor of his regional policies.
To make things worse, the regime is still reeling in the aftermath of its downing of a passenger plane that was flying from Tehran to Kyiv, Ukraine, killing all 176 passengers on board. Many experts have called the incident the Iranian regime’s “Chernobyl” moment. The regime’s continued negligence of its commitments under the nuclear accord has put it in direct confrontation with the international community. Rouhani has described the regime’s current situation as the most difficult era in the past 40 years.
It is under such circumstances that the regime is nearing the parliamentary elections. If Khamenei was not in such a weak state, he could have postponed the elections to buy some time and stabilize the conditions. But he knows better than anyone else that time is not on his side, and things will only get worse in the months to come. That is why despite these crises he has decided to proceed with the elections while trying to minimize damage through disqualifications and other measures. Also, canceling or postponing the elections would literally mean that the country is in a state of emergency, a reality that Khamenei does not want to admit to.
Therefore, Khamenei and his regime are headed for even more turbulent times. “Lest the enemies take advantage and achieve their desires,” Khamenei warned in his Friday prayer sermon last week. And who is the enemy? Clearly, Khamenei means the people of Iran and their resistance movement, whose voice for regime change is growing louder every day and echoing in every city and street of Iran.