The Iranian government held the 13th Presidential election in the post-anti-monarchic revolution on June 18. Observers describe the election as the most important election in Iran since the ayatollahs took power in February 1979.
However, it flagrantly showed that the people no longer care about electoral events, their desires moving beyond the current establishment and its legal processes.
Despite an unprecedented boycott of the June 18 Presidential election, authorities portrayed a glorious image of the event, naming it “a great and historical victory.”
It took just five days till the truth was revealed. In the June 23 cabinet session, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani admitted the truth, laying the blame on his rivals for the low turnout in the election.
Regarding his security record as the Supreme National Security Council secretary, Rouhani feels the implications of this apathy better than anyone else. With the most security cabinet in the past 42 years, Rouhani sounded alarm bells about the low turnout in the Islamic Republic’s situation.
“Today, we are saddened why turnout was not more than 48 percent, and the Supreme Leader, with a fluent expression, and Marja’s invite for all to participate in the election means that the ballot box is important for the state,” said Rouhani.
The People or Ayatollahs’ Loyalists?
During a debate in the 2017 Presidential election, Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the government enjoys the support of just four percent of society.
In other words, he implicitly acknowledged that 96 percent of Iran’s population dissent from the theocratic ruling system. Notably, Ebrahim Raisi and Ghalibaf were defeated at the time, showing that their popularity is lower than the four percent comprising the theocracy’s loyalists.
Indeed, handpicked candidates for the Presidential election had focused to gain the votes of four percent of society. Given the current circumstances and the officials’ failure and unkept promises in various aspects, the entire Islamic Republic has dramatically lost its acceptance in the past four years.
It was shown during constant anti-establishment activities and protests, particularly in November 2019. At the time, the heads of three breaches of powers, including President Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Raisi, and then-Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani—who was disqualified by the Guardian Council and removed from Presidential competitions, approved a 200-percent increase in gas prices.
In response, hundreds of thousands of citizens flooded onto the streets in at least 200 cities across Iran, protesting fuel price hikes. Instead, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and security forces to “do whatever it takes to end” protests.
Furthermore, in its damning report on September 2, 2020, Amnesty International pointed out the role of judicial authorities in crimes against detained protesters in November 2019.
“Iran’s police, intelligence, and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors, a catalog of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment, against those detained in connection with the nationwide protests of November 2019,” said Amnesty International.
Following these developments, IRGC members who are known as the most loyalists to the theocracy clearly express their frustration over the Islamic Republic’s performances. This is a landmark in the past 42 years displaying the ayatollahs’ shrinking reputation even among their devotees.
“Our grievances are so many we did not vote and stayed behind. We are exhausted,” wrote IRGC commander Mehdi Hemmat in a letter addressing Raisi.
There is no precise estimation of the real number of exhausted agents. However, according to four million spoilt votes declared by the Interior Ministry, observers reckon these agents’ population is around four million, including those who have to vote due to their occupations and in fear of the implications of not voting.
“Refusing to participate in the elections may be the top of the great sins… Non-participation may be followed by worldly outcomes and divine responsibility even for next generations!” Khamenei cited the will of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, on June 4.
"Refusing to participate in the elections may be the top of the great sins… Non-participation may be followed by worldly outcomes and divine responsibility even for next generations!" Khamenei cited Khomeini's will showing his concerns over #BoycottIranShamElections. pic.twitter.com/KN0XxhubIL
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) June 4, 2021
Rouhani Slams Khamenei and Raisi for Removing Domestic Rivals
On the other hand, Rouhani stepped further and blamed the Khamenei-controlled Guardian Council for removing his associates and allies like Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri and Larijani from Presidential competitions. “Candidates had been handpicked,” Rouhani said.
He also mentioned Khamenei’s exploitation from the religion. “Islam is not merely delivering the speech and reading Quran,” he said, adding, “Islamism is not equivalent with devaluating others’ reputation.”
Rouhani also introduced Khamenei and his allies as the main barrier for lifting U.S. sanctions. “We can end sanctions today, if ‘they’ allow us,” he said.
Rouhani also slammed President-select Raisi for his notorious background as a judicial authority. “It is impossible to counter corruption with trials,” he said, mocking Raisi’s claims, “I became happy when I heard Mr. Raisi said, ‘I follow meritocracy.’ OK, let’s see it since the inauguration of the new cabinet on August 3.
Truly, Rouhani’s remarks on June 23 were a showcase of Tehran’s backbreaking crises in political, social, economic fields. Contrary to Khamenei’s desire for unitarizing the Islamic Republic and putting his most loyalist agents in power, he currently faces growing crises inside the ruling system. In such circumstances, any repressive or plundering decision may ignite public ire and start another round of nationwide protests.