Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, February 7, 2020—As Iran’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for February 21, close in, the regime’s officials become more frantic in their pleads with the public to participate in their mockery of democratic processes.
On Friday, Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the regime’s judiciary, issued open threats, saying, “Anyone who questions the elections is in the enemy’s front.” Raisi’s remarks were aimed at reining in the rivalries between different regime officials, who in their disputes have been revealing facts that prove the corrupt processes and policies that underly the regime’s elections. But Raisi's remarks also expose the sensitivity of the current state of the elections for the regime.
Khamenei’s desperate pleading
A day earlier, Ali Khamenei, the regime’s supreme leader, had openly pleaded with the people to participate in the elections.
In his remarks, the regime’s supreme leader revealed why he and other regime officials are so desperate for widespread participation in the elections. “First, [the elections] guarantee the country’s security if all the people take part in the election. Why? Because the enemies who threaten the country fear the popular support more than our weapons; Yes, they fear our missiles too, but they fear [the elections] more. Taking part in the election shows the rule’s popular support and that brings security,” Khamenei said.
“Second, it shows the people’s strength,” Khamenei added, while also admitting that “there are problems in the country” and that “our failures have made problems for the people and they have some objections.” But nonetheless, he expects the people to participate in the elections to show the “determination, power and vision of the people,” which in essence translates to “support for the regime.”
While ridiculously calling the regime’s elections “the most honest elections in the world,” Khamenei begged for participation and said, “Some may not like me, but they should vote for the sake of the country’s prestige and security.”
Khamenei’s remarks were a rare admission to the public hatred toward the entirety of the regime. In recent months, the common denominator of protests across Iran has been slogans against Khamenei and calls for the overthrow of the regime. “Death to Khamenei,” “Khamenei, resign,” “We don’t want the Islamic Republic,” and other anti-regime slogans that had been considered taboos and severely punished by the regime are now being openly chanted by protesters from all walks of life across Iran.
Therefore, on the domestic front, the regime is faced with an exacerbating existential crisis as the people grow bolder in their calls for regime change. In this context, more than ever, Khamenei needs to put up a show of popular support, both to lift the dwindling spirits of his troops and also to create the grounds to further suppress demonstrations, which are growing more numerous and crowded every day.
Khamenei is not the only official that has been begging the people to take part in the elections. During last week’s Friday prayers, Ali Movahedi Kermani, Khamenei’s representative in Tehran, said, "Let us hope that we don’t hear of a low turnout in the elections.”
Other officials have made similar calls.
The regime’s foreign crises
Khamenei’s efforts to display the legitimacy of his regime through widespread participation in the parliamentary elections take place while his regime is also faced with an international crisis, which is also largely due to the popular protests inside Iran. With the appeasement policy in the last throes of its miserable life, the regime is faced with increasing pressure on its illicit and provocative activities, including the development of ballistic and nuclear weapons, violent intervention in the affairs of neighboring countries, and the funding of terrorism across the globe.
Under heavy international sanctions, the regime is finding it increasingly difficult to fund these illicit activities, which have for long defined the pillars of its existence.
The regime will try to continue efforts to recruit European countries on its side to muster legitimacy in its confrontation with the international community, such as the recent fruitless visit of the European Union’s top diplomat to Tehran.
But even the mullahs’ traditional allies are finding it increasingly difficult to support this regime. For the proponents of the appeasement policy, siding with a regime that just recently killed 1,500 of its own citizens in the streets of Iran is proving to be very costly.
As Khamenei said in his remarks, “The elections solve many of our international problems. The way international observers judge countries and decide to deal with them is very much dependent on these things.”
That’s why the mullahs need more than ever to run the elections and portray a democratic image of their regime, even though they and everyone else know that it’s a travesty of democracy.
Why the regime can’t hold democratic elections
While Khamenei desperately needs to go through the farce of the parliamentary elections, he also can’t prevent the many problems that emerge when his regime crosses path with democracy. Elections have traditionally been a time of turmoil for the regime, widening rifts among ruling factions and setting the stage for nationwide protests.
Regime officials are deeply engaged in a power struggle. Members of different regime factions see the elections as an opportunity to grab a bigger share of the power and loot the country’s resources.
In the meantime, the Guardian Council, which vets elections candidates and is tightly controlled by Khamenei himself, has resorted to a widespread disqualification of rivaling candidates. This has triggered disputes among officials, which in turn has resulted in the revelation of many facts about how elections are run in the regime.
Iranian regime MP Mahmoud Sadeghi revealed new aspects of bribery and collusion in the vetting process of Majlis candidates last week, tweeting, “In this round of elections middlemen have on some occasions demanded up to 40 billion rials (about $300,000) [to ensure the candidate is] approved. What a parliament it is going to be!”
Other officials have explicitly said that the elections are a sham and that the results have been “engineered” in advance. One media outlet that is close to regime president Hassan Rouhani wrote, “The outcome of the vote for 160 seats in the Majlis (parliament) has been predefined and there’s no competition, not even between the principalists. In 70 other seats, there will be a very weak competition.”
And the former head of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters (DCH), Ali Hashemi, has confirmed that "dirty money" has had a role in deciding the country's parliamentary elections. Dirty money refers to money collected in the narcotics market and drug smuggling that resurfaces on the political stage, through financial support to candidates, and for urging members of parliament to endorse some particular bills and motions.
While regime officials quarrel among themselves, they weaken the regime in its entirety. This only creates the ground for more nationwide protests by the people of Iran, who are tired and outraged of 40 years of tyranny under the rule of the mullahs and look at every opportunity to come out in the streets and cast their real vote: regime change.
In a nutshell, Khamenei is stuck between a rock and a hard place: On the one hand, he needs a democratic façade both for his domestic and foreign policies, while on the other, his regime has no capacity to adopt anything that has to do with democracy.