The so-called presidential “election” that is scheduled for May 19th in Iran is in far contrast to what is witnessed in today’s democratic countries. Polls in Iran under the mullahs’ regime are neither free nor fair, and the upcoming presidential election will weaken the regime in its entirety to an unprecedented scale.
What Tehran considers a constitution prevents any possible election based on internationally recognized standards. Candidates must prove their utter loyalty to the mullahs’ regime and the Supreme Leader. As a result, the word “opposition” has no meaning in Iranian politics. As a result any assertion of “moderates” facing off against “hardliners” in Iran is completely misleading. This is a regime of various factions, not different political parties.
The Supreme Leader has the final word in all state affairs, including national security and foreign relations. All three executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the government are under the heavy influence of the Supreme Leader.
The president in Iran is a post completely reliant to the Supreme Leader, knowing he can be sacked at any moment and without prior notice. True authority in Iran is controlled by the Supreme Leader’s office and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
“We are all merely facilitators of this regime,” once said Mohammad Khatami, the so-called “moderate” president who served from 1997 to 2005.
This regime’s core policies hover around domestic crackdown, exporting terrorism and fundamentalist abroad, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the form of a nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles.
And all candidates, including the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and a leading pro-Khamenei camp loyalist Ebrahim Raisi, are in line with all the regime’s strategic objectives. Otherwise, their candidacy would not enjoy Khamenei’s necessary approval.
Raisi has been a figure involved in Iran’s judiciary from the early days of this regime. He is mostly known for his notorious role in the “Death Commission” ordered by regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini himself to preside over the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mainly members and supporters of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Rouhani, while claiming to be a moderate, bears a significant security profile serving the regime’s higher interests. He was key in imposing strictly conservative clothing regulations on Iranian women following the 1979 revolution; acted as Rafsanjani’s right hand man during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and sending even juveniles to the front lines; remaining silent over the 1988 massacre; admitting to his direct involvement in the 1999 student uprising crackdown; and sending over 3,000 people to the gallows during the four years of his tenure.
Rouhani, known as the “Purple Fox” in Iran for his deceptive nature, has publicly supported Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s carnage against the innocent Syrian people and long pursued to advance Iran’s nuclear program and ballistic missile drive.
The only difference cited between Raisi and Rouhani is the latter’s ability to combine his brutality with a deceptive touch.
To this end, whoever becomes this regime’s president after May 19th or the possible May 26th runoff, will only be a puppet for the Supreme Leader.
However, the 2017 presidential election in Iran are taking place at a time when Tehran is facing a conglomerate of crises:
- 18 months after the nuclear deal implementation, and despite the Obama administration and the West going the limits in providing Tehran concessions, the mullahs’ regime has failed to reach a solution to any fundamentalist dilemma. Khamenei and his regime are severely weakened after giving up their nuclear weapon leverage and left with increasing crises across the board.
- A new era is in the making as Team Obama left the White House and the new Trump administration is involved in a major foreign policy overhaul. This has raised foremost concerns for the mullahs’ in Tehran about possible future consequences, and placed a significant shadow over Khamenei’s desired presidential election outcome.
- The Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK was able to successfully relocate all its members in an organized fashion from Iraq to European countries, leaving the regime in utter shock. Iran had sought their complete annihilation during their stay in Iraq. Now, the formation of this opposition force far from the Iranian regime’s reach is extremely dangerous for Tehran as this movement enjoys significant influence inside Iran.
- Rafsanjani’s death has left the entire regime extremely weaker and the Rouhani camp without his crucial weight and support. While Khamenei may enjoy a short lived freer hand to consolidate his rule, the strategic impact of such a loss is considered irrecoverable for Tehran.
Making the entire scene even far more complex is Khamenei’s deteriorating health and the very dire issue of determining his successor.
All said and done, this regime has one major red line: to prevent Iran’s powder keg society from launching major protests and nationwide uprisings similar to that of 2009.
Khamenei enjoys the authority to “engineer” the election result, so long as such a measure falls short of leading to further factional infighting that may spark uprisings across the country. Considering the abovementioned factors that have weakened the regime considerably, the current apparatus lacks the capacity to overcome such a massive blow and any repetition of scenes similar to that of 2009 will noticeably challenge the entire regime.
The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hosted a web conference on Thursday providing an in-depth analysis and different perspective of the election outcome.
“The take away from all these factors is that the choices for Khamenei are between worse, and even far worse. This is the reality that Khamenei has to deal with and a totally new situation and new prospects,” according to NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mohammad Mohaddesin.
Sensing his regime’s weakness, Khamenei has brought Raisi forth to consolidate his power and continue exporting terrorism and fundamentalist, regional meddling and domestic crackdown. If he succeeds in Raisi becoming president, the regime will witness its already dwindling base diminish extensively. The international community will also realize once and for all that reforms and moderation in Iran are nothing but a delusion.
If Rouhani remains for a second term, however, Khamenei’s prestige will suffer a major blow resulting in unprecedented inner conflicts. His ability to determine his successor will also be damaged and the regime will need to seek further concessions from the international community.
While factional crises will escalate as a result, and with Rafsanjani gone and Washington adopting a firm approach vis-à-vis Iran, the horizon looks gloom to say the least for the mullahs’ regime. No election outcome has the potential of relieving Tehran from these brewing crises.