An online campaign to boycott the country’s upcoming elections is being driven by Iranian expatriates who oppose the theocratic regime governing in Tehran.
The push started last month, is being orchestrated mainly by accounts belonging to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a France-based opposition group considered one of Iran’s most powerful opposition movements. Posts opposing the boycott have now reached over 300,000.
Three candidates lead Iran’s May 19th elections — President Hassan Rouhani, Ehbrahim Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Raisi is one of the four Sharia judges who oversaw the executions of tens of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Qalibaf previously commanded Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.
#Shamelections, #MyVoteRegimeChange, and other anti-election hashtags are gaining momentum on Twitter, as are slogans like, “Boycott the faked election”, and those that say, “there is no difference between Rouhani and Raisi,” The two candidates are portrayed as two sides of the same coin. “What election?! It’s a puppet show run by [religious leader Ayatollah] Khamenei to create the illusion of a democracy,” a person purporting to be an exiled Iranian living in Europe tweeted.
The majority of the tweets seem to have originated outside of Iran, from countries including France, Germany and Albania, where the NCRI has a significant presence.
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee, Senator John McCain, met with NCRI officials in Albania last month, praising them for their “sacrifice for freedom” in Iran, according to reports.
Videos were uploaded by NCRI users, which allegedly show Iranians in public places in Tehran and Arak holding signs against elections, or against Rouhani, or Raisi. It is said that these actions were coordinated by Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), the military wing of the NCRI.
Rouhani is expected to be re-elected according to Reuters, because of his wide support among urban populations and women who would welcome relaxed restrictions on social behavior.
However, Iran’s opposition claims, the opposite, arguing that little has changed during Rouhani’s presidency.