Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, February 17, 2020—With less than a week to go before Iran’s parliamentary elections, Hassan Rouhani, the regime’s president, held a press briefing on Sunday in which he discussed different critical issues.
Rouhani’s main goal, of course, was to beg the Iranian people to come to the polls on Friday. With calls for regime change becoming increasingly louder in Iran, regime officials are extremely worried about a nationwide boycott of the elections. To this end, Rouhani implicitly retraced his steps on some of the criticism he had made earlier in his rivalries with other ruling factions in the regime.
Rouhani retraces his steps
Previously, in reaction to members of his faction being disqualified from the race, Rouhani had criticized the Guardian Council, the body that vets candidates, and had described the parliamentary elections as “selections.”
On Saturday, Rouhani said, “I never have and never will question the elections. The elections are an important issue for our country… If it were selections, there would be no need for insisting and begging [on participation]. The selection was a reference to before the revolution… What I wanted to say is that we don’t allow the elections to become selections, not that it is like that right now.”
Rouhani also effectively requested that the people choose whatever goes through the strict filters of the Guardian Council, saying, “There are three options: choosing the best, choosing from limited candidates, and no taking part. If we can’t make the best choice, should we also avoid choosing from limited candidates? It would be to our own detriment.”
Rouhani also seemed to backtrack on criticizing the uncompetitive nature of the elections. A previous estimate, first published by Rouhani-aligned media, had posited that there will be no competition in 70 districts because the candidates are all from the same ruling faction. In his Sunday press conference, Rouhani said that there are now only 44 districts where there’s no competition. “There will be a competition in most districts, and the people will show up… even if there wasn’t any competition, I still believe the people should show up. We are all Iranians and we love the revolution and our country.”
Rouhani and other regime officials, including supreme leader Ali Khamenei, have been begging the people to vote on Friday. Faced with many crises at home and abroad, the regime needs the turnout as a quasi-vote of confidence and a mandate to continue its destructive policies inside Iran and across the world.
Fear of declaring the casualties of the November uprisings
When asked about the number of people killed during the November protests, Rouhani revealed his fear of admitting to the crimes of his regime. According to research by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), security forces killed over 1,500 protesters. This figure was later confirmed by other media and widely reported.
Like other officials, Rouhani tried to downplay the atrocities of his regime, claiming that the numbers were misreported and widely overblown. He also refrained from giving the real figure and threw the ball in the court of other regime bodies.
“The number of casualties is in the possession of the coroner. If the coroner’s office knows all the aspects, which they probably know by now, then they will be able to declare the figures. But the figure that we are aware of is much smaller than what has been reported by the media,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani once again proved how fearful he is of the Iranian people, knowing that declaring the real tally of the casualties will probably outrage the people and spark more protests in Iran.
The downing of the Ukrainian airliner
When asked about the Ukrainian airliner that the Revolutionary Guards shot down on January 8, Rouhani tried to justify the government’s three-day lies about the crash being due to a technical failure. He also downplayed the IRGC’s crime, describing it as “human error.”
“[The lies were] not intentional and did not mean to damage the people’s trust,” Rouhani said. “The same armed forces who have brought much honor and achievements for us in the past stepped forth and assumed responsibility of the incident and apologized to the people. I admire the way the IRGC handled this.”
Interestingly, the people of Iran held no illusions about how the IRGC and Rouhani’s government “handled” the situation. Shortly after the government admitted that the plane was shot down by the armed forces, thousands of people across Iran, mostly students, poured to the streets and called for regime change.
While Rouhani tried his best to portray a normal situation before the elections, he effectively highlighted the chaotic state that the regime is going through. As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said on the anniversary of the 1979 Revolution, “The Iranian people have cast their real vote during the November 2019 and January 2020 uprisings. This vote is summarized in the slogans of ‘down with the principle of velayat-e faqih,’ ‘death to Khamenei,’ and ‘death to Rouhani.’ And on this basis, the people will boycott the mullahs' illegitimate parliamentary election more than ever before.”