Iran: Election Stand-Up Comedy – OpEd


Finally, the Guardian Council, whose members are entirely appointed by the religious dictator Ali Khamenei, has selected the actors for the stand-up comedy through which the new president will be chosen. Out of the 80 individuals entirely loyal to the religious dictatorship who volunteered for the hollow role of president, more than 70 were disqualified, leaving only 6 approved candidates.

Among the disqualified candidates were a former president, a former speaker of the parliament, several ministers and deputy ministers, a few parliament members, and another official from Khamenei’s office.

This spectacle was so absurd that Karbaschi, the former mayor of Tehran and a regime insider, wrote: “Is there a greater art than establishing a mechanism that transforms the primary symbol of democracy in a country into a farcical show or stand-up comedy under the guise of election registration, entertaining the public for a few days, wasting a great deal of the country’s time and budget, and paving the way in the public mind for the transition from a republic to a dictatorship?” (Government newspaper Ham-Mihan, June 5).

It is clear that everything in this election revolves around the survival of Khamenei’s dictatorship, with the succession of Khamenei being the only determining factor.

The six approved candidates in this election are: Saeed Jalili, Alireza Zakani, and Seyed Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, all of whom were among the seven presidential candidates in 2021 and acted as supporting candidates for Ebrahim Raisi, withdrawing in his favor after the televised debates. The fourth approved candidate, Ghalibaf, is a principalist and the current speaker of the parliament. The fifth candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, a former health minister, is from the so-called reformist camp. The condition set by former President Mohammad Khatami for the reformists’ participation in the election was that at least one of their candidates be approved, a condition Khamenei seems to have accepted. The sixth candidate, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, is also a principalist and a member of the Death Committee responsible for the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.

However, beyond this so-called election farce, many points can be observed. The disqualification of the regime’s highest officials indicates that Khamenei can no longer make even the smallest maneuver. He believes that to confront the overwhelming waves of uprisings, he must increasingly rid himself of any element with which he has even the slightest rift. It is evident that he cannot even tolerate an element like Larijani, who served three terms as the parliament’s speaker. Thus, he has no choice but to foment wars and create obstacles to ceasefires and peace in the Middle East to ensure his survival.

Among the approved candidates, the presence of Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a member of the Death Committee in the 1988 massacre, carries an important message. The message is that the regime is still the regime of massacre, and it absolutely will not accept any reform. The only way it sees to survive is through massacres, repression, and killing.

Mullah Mostafa Pourmohammadi, like Ebrahim Raisi, was part of the Death Committee in 1988 and, like him, is deeply hostile towards the MEK, the main victims of the massacre. Even when the movement seeking justice for the 1988 massacre gained momentum, he explicitly stated that they were not remorseful and added: “We have not yet settled our accounts with the MEK. They are the most hostile enemies of this regime, and we must bring each of them to justice and sentence them to the maximum punishment.”

However, unlike Ebrahim Raisi, Pourmohammadi has some disagreements with Khamenei. In the recent elections for the Assembly of Experts, he was initially disqualified but was reinstated because he was the Secretary-General of the Combatant Clergy Association, and it would have been detrimental to the regime. However, they did not allow him to be elected.

It appears that in this electoral engineering, given Pourmohammadi’s disagreements with Khamenei, he is not Khamenei’s main candidate for the presidency. Therefore, the candidates Khamenei aims to bring out of the ballot box will be either Mohammad Qalibaf or Saeed Jalili.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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