In order to do this, it needed to bring large crowds to celebration events, but, as usual, the regime had to resort to force and bribery to get people to take part in their propaganda event.
Rally participants were offered free transport, free food, and free background checks, which are a big expense for people looking for employment.
While the regime forced government employees, students, the armed forces and their families to attend and even blocked streets so that the crowd couldn’t deviate from the main procession, which would make the rally look larger.
Despite all this, the regime could still not fill the streets with big enough crowds to distract from its many crises, with even Western media outlets estimating attendance in the tens of thousands, which is far smaller than the estimate for the funeral for Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani last month.
Although, one should note that the regime’s propaganda efforts were hard at work there as well. In fact, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) worked hard to dispute the regime’s version of events and point out that Soleimani’s “mourners” were largely forced or bribed to be there.
These events show that domestic support for the clerical regime is extremely thin, something reinforced by the nationwide uprisings of November and January.
The West are sometimes under the impression that the so-called reformer faction is supported by the people and will sway to democracy once the “hardliners” are removed. This could not be less true.
The reformers, headed by President Hassan Rouhani, are hardliners by a different name and do not challenge the Supreme Leader at all; not even when most reformer candidates for the parliamentary election have been disqualified by the Guardian Council, which is loyal to the Supreme Leader.
The MEK see the regime’s weak domestic and international position and know that it won’t be long until the regime is removed from office.
Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi urged Iranians to boycott the election this month and “vote for regime change”. This appears to be the most popular option, as even the regime’s official estimates anticipate a mere 15% voter turnout. This shows up the idea of widespread support for the regime as a whole.