The rigged election ended as most experts predicted: with a landslide victory for the regime’s preferred candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, but also with a massively effective boycott of the votes, orchestrated in large part by Iran’s largest opposition, The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran).
With the “selection” of Raisi as Iran’s next president last week, the Iranian government put an end to a phenomenon that countless Iranians had denounced in past years as a power-sharing “game” between two political factions with no ideological differences.
Previously, the MEK was an important role in the nationwide uprisings of January 2018 and November 2019, which featured anti-government cries such as “Hardliners, reformists: the game is over.”
That statement aimed to draw attention to the reality that, regardless of whatever political faction controlled the presidency and parliament, Iran’s numerous crises had gotten worse over time. Changes in leadership primarily served to redistribute the rewards of government corruption from one group to another, while domestic and international policies remained unchanged in each case.
The previous eight years have once again demonstrated that all promises made by the regime’s presidents result in further deterioration of the quality of life for Iranians, as well as increased tensions between Iran and the international community, including those who actively seek to appease the ayatollahs by reaching out to the “reformist” government.
On the one hand, the growing popularity of the electoral boycott reflects the public’s growing dissatisfaction with a system that has never seriously addressed their concerns about the economy, civil society restrictions, or the country’s international isolation as a result of the regime’s malign activities.
Ebrahim Raisi’s success came after a vetting procedure in which the Guardian Council used its authority even more ruthlessly than in prior elections. In addition to the so-called “reformists,” the 12-member body rejected anyone thought capable of presenting a serious opposition to Khamenei’s preferred nominee.
The judiciary’s response to the November 2019 uprising, which erupted in nearly 200 cities and towns almost immediately after the government announced a raise in the government-set price of gas, was a distinguishing aspect of Raisi’s tenure as chief justice.
Security forces opened fire on crowds of protesters, killing 1,500 people, while stories of systemic torture from Iranian jails continued to emerge for months later.
According to the MEK, roughly 12,000 people were imprisoned in the early aftermath of the uprisings, either for directly participating in the protests or for alleged ties to other anti-regime acts.
Of course, none of the regime’s prominent personalities, including the “reformist” faction and Hassan Rouhani, spoke out against repression.
The entire situation has confirmed two important realities regarding the Iranian regime. To begin with, there are no reformists among its officials and insiders. Second, there is no popular support for that system among Iranians.
Policymakers must acknowledge the electoral boycott for what it is, as described by the MEK Resistance Units. Activists have stated in public statements that refusing to vote is effectively a “vote for regime change.”