Effects of Recent Exits on Iran’s Presidential Election

An unexpected turn of events came about when Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf made an early exit on Tuesday from Iran’s presidential election. 

In an article by Heshmat Alavi, for Al Arabiya, he writes, “This can be the result of a conclusion reached by the hardliner camp from the 2013 presidential election where their chances were hurt with none of their candidates willing to step aside in favor of their all-out interests.”

Most likely to follow Ghalibaf is conservative former minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Mostafa Mir-Salim. Alavi claims that he never had a chance in the polls, and was only there to set three “hardliners” against three so-called “moderates/reformists”.

Those loyal to Khamenei will now be rallying behind Ebrahim Raisi, Alavi believes, as he is an insider figure with the Supreme Leader’s support.

Inside Iran, Raisi is known as the “massacre ayatollah”, and  has served the judiciary for three decades. He has sent thousands to the gallows, including those in the summer 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Rouhani, the “moderate”, his own Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri stepping aside on Monday, after challenging the “hardline” rivals head on in the debates and taking the hits for Rouhani.

Alavi says that Rouhani has nothing to present to the Iranian voter.

According to Alavi, “He has failed to inject any new life into the economy and provide for the average Iranian after the nuclear deal, and yet tens of billions of dollars are spent on:

a) the regime’s meddling across the region, mainly in Syria

b) the ballistic missile drive

c) the domestic crackdown machine

d) the nuclear program that was supposed to be curbed” 

During the past four years Rouhani has also presided over 3,000 executions. 

Signs indicate Raisi will probably be selected by the regime. Alavi asks,  “Would Khamenei have even entered Raisi into the race if he had any hesitations about the outcome?” And he interprets The Supreme Leader’s recent remarks as warnings to Rouhani, especially when he warned that any disruptor of the process will receive a “slap in the face.”

However, Alavi says that a complete “engineering” of the election will not be an easy task for Khamenei, as there are divides in the regime’s senior ranks. “Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a former principalist, and Ali-Akbar Nategh-Nouri, a close confidant of Khamenei, have placed their weight behind Rouhani,” he writes. 

New to the 2017 election is that Khamenei’s camp is embracing the importance of social media. The candidates are using Twitter, despite its being officially banned in Iran, as well as the messaging app, Telegram, with over 20 million in Iran, to spread their message to the younger generation who make up a very large percentage of Iran’s population.

Activists, especially those connected with the PMOI/MEK network of supporters inside the country, have braved many risks to spread the message of Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi.

If arrested, these activists will most certainly be tortured and most probably executed as any support for the PMOI/MEK inside Iranis considered the crossing of a major red line. This trend is a signal that there may be yet another major boycott by the Iranian population.

“Fact is, in Iran the question isn’t who gets the most votes, but who’s counting them. And those counting them this year clearly favor Raisi, a hardliner judge. All this seems to guarantee the next few years will be filled with hostility and provocations directed toward America from Tehran. Indeed, even if Rouhani gets another presidential term, it’s already clear: The age of phony smiles between America and Iran is now over,” according to The New York Post.