THE BLOG

Iran's Theatrical Elections

29/05/2013 14:25 BST | Updated 29/05/2013 14:25 BST

Just a few weeks from now, on June 14 will be a landmark day for the Islamic Republic of Iran, when Iranians will hold what they call "presidential elections." This exercise is a little more than a scam. But the process, however, will carry far-reaching consequences for the region and the world.

As far as ordinary Iranian citizens are concerned, there is no room for any doubt that this election is theatrics on a large scale. All candidates must be pre-approved by the Council of Guardians, a body comprised of ayatollahs, who in turn are hand picked by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Like most local politics, Iran's domestic politics appear complicated to the outsider. Only Iran's politics with rivalries far exceeding those in the West has placed the future of the regime in possible jeopardy. Iran's belligerent role in regional politics and its quest for nuclear technology makes the outcome of the "elections" a major concern for the West as well as Iranians.

The weight rests heavily on Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who is burdened by serious challenges and must accordingly make some tough decisions. Among them are the nuclear agenda and his country's support of the reeling regime of Syria's Bashar Assad, Tehran's only ally in the region.

At home he has to deal with a shattered economy and sky-rocketing prices for the most basic staples, issues that cold well lead to his demise if there is a repetition of the riots that accompanies the last election.

Khamenei intends to install one of his confidants at the helm in order to pursue the strategy adopted in the past decade. That means the regime would move towards further contraction internally, more purges of anyone opposed to the regime and an even greater role for the IRGC domestically. On the international arena it means a more aggressive and belligerent policy.

To achieve his objectives Khamenei took a dramatic measure and eliminated Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as a candidate. This marked a huge rupture and extreme internal purge at the pinnacle of the mullahs' regime. This was compounded by the fact that Khamenei resorted to another major purge by eliminating Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was hand-picked by Ahmadinejad, the current President, to succeed him.

What is beyond doubt is that the two major purges make the power base of the regime much weaker and more vulnerable.

One has to keep in mind that Rafsanjani played a decisive role in propelling Khamenei to the position of the Supreme Leader. As the Chair of the Expediency Council, Rafsanjani is a Khamenei personal appointee and as a member of the Assembly of Experts, he has a say on the fitness of the Supreme Leader in the framework of the clerical regime. Rafsanjani's elimination will discredit and de-legitimize the regime as a whole, even among its innermost circles.

The ultimate red line for Khamenei is repetition of the scenes of the 2009 uprising. He is fully cognizant that this time he might not be able to put the genie back into the bottle.

The minister of Intelligence expressed his utmost concern regarding public protests, stating that "creating social, economic and security instability; depicting a bleak outlook for the country; stirring up emotional behaviour in the society; tarnishing the image of the IRGC, the Basij and revolutionary institutions; attacking the leader; and conveying despair and hopelessness to the people are amongst other strategies of the enemy."

Khamenei's concern and fear of an uprising is based on solid ground. There is a strong movement seeking a very different kind of Iran. They seek regime change in its entirety and advocate the overthrow of the clerical regime by Iranians at home, spearheaded by the organized resistance, led by Mrs Maryam Rajavi, the charismatic President of the opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

Mrs Rajavi been advocating a secular, democratic republic with separation of church and state, gender equality and nuclear-free Iran; a message that has been resonating in the ears of Iranians at home and abroad.

The resistance has been reorganizing its vast network inside Iran to set the ground for the big change. The mullahs have brutally executed some 120,000 MEK activists, yet still remains unable to write them off.

In recent weeks Iranian activists have picked up the pace of their activities calling for regime change as the ultimate vote. Despite widespread crackdowns, graffiti and posters against the illegitimate election and the regime have surfaced.

Slogans such as "Our Vote is for the Overthrow" have appeared in many streets and highway overpasses in Tehran and other cities including Isfahan, Shiraz.

Outside Iran, the resistance is also gaining momentum. It has planned a major international event in rejection of the shame elections, "onward to freedom" in Paris on June 22. Last year, some 100,000 Iranians from all over the world gathered in Paris to express support for the resistance. They were joined by a stellar group of political personalities from the US, France, Europe and the Muslim world along with hundreds of parliamentarians.

The opposition is emboldened by the removal of the main Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from the US terror list after a 15 year-long legal and political battle.

There are strong indications that the ruling theocracy has reached its end phase. While the West is anxiously watching the Iranian situation it should not bank on the success of the mullahs as the winds of change are likely to blow the mullahs out of power opening the way for the people and their resistance movement to establish freedom and democracy.