The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spent a great deal of his New Year speech focused on the sham Presidential elections that are due to be held this summer because he wants to encourage a high voter turnout – despite the pandemic – to prove that the Iranian people believe in the system. He said the elections must be “unipolar”.
The trouble is, the Iranian people don’t and, since the 2017 uprising, they’ve been calling for regime change, expressing their hatred for both factions. They’ve also been widely boycotting any elections, especially the parliamentary elections last year, even though the regime hid the arrival of coronavirus into the country in order to protect the elections. So why are the elections so important to Khamenei?
Well, the Iranian regime is weak right now. The weakest its been since its inception following the overthrow of the Shah. Even regime officials are saying that seven-eights of the country want fundamental change, not least because over 60% of the country live below the poverty line, unable to afford meat and fruit to eat. Many Iranians are now searching through trash, selling organs, or even selling their babies in order to feed their families. And with rampant poverty comes addiction and mental illness.
This economic disaster has created a powder keg society ready to explode and take the system down with it. Khamenei was able to oppress the 2017 and 2019 protests, but this time, even the most brutal of militias would find it hard to stop the army of the starving people. After all, protests are breaking out on a daily basis in Iran; any of these could be the one to end it all.
Of course, Khamenei denies responsibility for the problems, blaming his President Hassan Rouhani or whoever holds power at the time, but make no mistake, the warring factions are alike in all but name. Sure, the reformists talk about wanting better relations with the West, but what they actually want is the lifting of sanctions without the need to do anything to earn it. And Khamenei knows that all Iranian officials are de-facto on his side, so he encourages people to vote in order to pretend that Iran is a democracy and that the regime has support from the public. A high voter turnout will help sell that to the West and increase support amongst politicians there for lifting sanctions.