Iran’s hardliners are fighting to ensure that not only their preferred candidate, the head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, wins Saturday’s presidential election, but also that the electoral system that puts him in power retains a veneer of credibility with ordinary Iranians.
Polls predict turnout as low as 40%, down from 73% previously in 2017, in part because the Iranian regime has gone further than ever to engineer the outcome. Still, the regime is nervous as the compressed three-week campaign has led to, on at least three previous occasions, late-night mood swings.
Raisi’s main rival, Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former centrist governor of the Central Bank of Iran, is trying to create a popular wave in the final days of the campaign with increasingly desperate warnings about Iran’s international isolation and a coup. cash. He says his biggest enemy is none of the other candidates, but apathy and disillusionment more than a decade after the massive protests that followed the stolen 2009 elections.
“What happened to our youth during these 12 years that changed their chants of ‘Where’s my vote?’ to ‘No way am I going to vote’? ” he said.
Hemmati must prevent Raisi from getting 50% of the vote in a first round of seven candidates, five conservatives and two moderates, to secure a second round. The result will be known on Saturday.
Polls show Hemmati in second place and hardliner Raisi on the brink or with more than 50% of the vote.
Hemmati is inexperienced in day-to-day politics and clumsy at times in the three highly managed television debates, but is seen as the only serious threat to the victory of Raisi, whose prospects have been inflated by the unelected Guardian Council of Iran that blocked nine reformist-backed candidates from running, but also, more surprisingly, disqualifying Ali Larijani, a former president of the Conservative parliament and a man impeccably loyal to the regime.
Larijani, from an influential Iranian political family, spoke briefly on Twitter to demand an explanation for his disqualification, but on Tuesday asked the Iranians not to boycott the vote.
However, the shame of the deep state intensified this week when Haidar Moslehi, the 2009-13 intelligence minister, revealed on television that he had ordered the Guardian Council to disqualify popular reformist Hashemi Rafsanjani from the elections simply because officials had concluded. from street polls his support reached 60 to 70%. Moslehi recalled telling the council that it was “the duty of the sons of Hezbollah” to prevent him from standing up, and they did.
An old video of Rafsanjani, who died in 2017, on the morning of his disqualification, resurfaced Tuesday, showing him running vigorously on a treadmill and saying that he had done his duty by submitting his name. One of the reasons for his disqualification, allegedly, was his age, which is why the treadmill was an implicit reprimand.
Such political filtering is common in Iran, but it is rare to hear confirmation of the arrangement from so deep within the intelligence machinery. The Guardian Council admitted that Moslehi saw them six years ago, but said he came to their point of view independently.
His claim prompted Rafsanjani’s eldest son, Mohsen Hashemi, president of the Tehran city council, and himself excluded from running in the 2021 elections, to write to the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to ask if the electoral process was purely decorative. . Her sister Faezeh Hashemi said, “This is no longer a choice; it’s a date, and they’ve set the stage in such a way that only Mr. Raisi has a chance. “
The arrangement has left a weakened reform movement in anguish, so often divided between those who want to boycott so as not to give a settlement legitimacy, and those who think that four years of the intransigent Raisi would mark the end of the Republic. Some also argue that it is time for reformists to allow the hardliners to take over all state organs, elected and unelected, so that, for once, they have no one to blame.
Half of the 46-strong general assembly of the Reform Front, the reformist group, on Tuesday called for Hemmati’s backing, seven short of the required two-thirds majority. But many reformist factions like Etemad-e-Melli backed Hemmati, urging him to offer to appoint Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as his formal deputy.
Formerly best known for his views on exchange rates, Hemmati took a quasi-reformist line through three television debates and ClubHouse appearances, including attacking banks corruptly run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, vowing to put Five women in cabinet, opposing the Moral Police sent intimidating text messages to women about lax hijab wear and promised to release the results of an investigation into the killings of protesters in 2019. His wife, Sepideh Shabestari, appeared unusually on television wearing a veil instead of a chador. .
In a televised debate, he crossed the stage to deposit the names of 13 people with huge debts and challenged Raisi to explain why he had not prosecuted them.
But the debates were largely moderated by the state broadcaster in a game-show-like format, framing the discussion around the state of the economy and not, for example, the state of justice or isolationist foreign policy. , so Hemmati often put himself in danger. Raisi has also had the other four conservative candidates working in his corner trying to unsettle Hemmati in the debates. Hemmati has dismissed them as undercover candidates and correctly predicted that some would withdraw to clear Raisi’s path.
However, Hemmati obtained the influential backing of Mehdi Karroubi, a clerical leader of the Green Movement, who protested against the 2009 presidential elections and who has been under house arrest for 10 years.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate in 2009 who is also under house arrest, said in a more cryptic statement over the weekend: “I support those who have survived the humiliating and rigged elections,” adding that I would not give in to those who are part of secret agreements.
This, his first election declaration in a decade, was interpreted in sympathetic newspapers like Kalame to mean that he had sided with those who had turned their backs on the polls.
His wife, Zahra Rahnavard, was clear about the nature of the choice. “The people have nothing to do and do not consider themselves part of the republic,” he said. “And the republic, in front of everyone in the world, is being massacred and finally completely eliminated.”
The reformers insist this is not their last gasp and say they still have a future that points to a relatively young roster in the Tehran council elections, including five women. But it is a long way back.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism