By Adena Nima
Less than two months to Iran’s presidential elections and the regime has yet to officially announce its candidates for the mock vote that will bring Iran’s next president to power. But this isn’t the only thing that sets this year’s Iran elections apart. An unprecedented number of Iranians, on social media, and during street protests, have called for a boycott of the elections. Iran’s state-run media are even calling the upcoming June 18 Iran elections, “the strangest presidential elections”.
On Sunday, the regime did something else that added to the strangeness of Iran’s presidential elections. Two hundred and twenty members of parliament, in a joint letter, asked Iran’s Chief Justice to run for president. Ebrahim Raisi is the hard-liners’ obvious choice for president. But more importantly, he is the only chance the regime’s Supreme Leader has to consolidate his power. Many believe that Khamenei was actually behind the MP’s letter to Raisi.
If Khamenei succeeds in making Raisi president, that would mean a lot more suppression and brutality, especially against anti-regime protests. We have to remember that Raisi ran for president and lost during the last round of elections because of his involvement in the mass killing of over 30,000 political prisoners in the late 1980s. And since his installment as Chief Justice, human rights violations and lengthy prison terms, lashes, and torture against political prisoners, dissidents, and religious minorities have increased.
And this is exactly the kind of person that Khamenei needs at a time when millions of Iranians have lost their patience with the regime. And especially since they blame Khamenei for the hundreds of thousands of deaths and many more COVID-19 infections after he came on state TV and announced a ban on US and UK-made vaccines. Many even believe Khamenei’s regime intentionally spread COVID-19 to prevent protests. After all, when everyone is worried about COVID-19 and the deaths of their loved ones, they won’t have time to think about anything else. This tactic has actually worked for now.
But in the long run, the regime’s gross negligence in handling the pandemic will only add fire to the already boiling anger of ordinary Iranians who have plunged into poverty because of the regime’s corruption and mismanagement.
In the end, we have to see whether Khamenei is powerful enough to install his choice of president. After all, the nationwide protests in 2018 and 2019, when thousands chanted for Khamenei’s downfall, diminished his strength to a large extent. And most recently, even current president Rouhani had the audacity to indirectly criticize him for his Nowruz speech when he spelled out the characteristics of Iran’s future president and who should run in Iran elections.
Whoever comes out of the ballot box, one thing is certain. Nothing can stop the millions of seething Iranians from taking their country back from the ruling clerics.