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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Around the time of Iran’s presidential elections, for as far back as the first round in 1980, vote-rigging has not been unusual. Ever since the regime’s founding father Ruhollah Khomeini took power, a pattern was set to “select” a man for the job with the blessing of powerhouses such as the Supreme Leader’s establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The Guardianship of Jurisprudence (Vali-ye faqih), or, the Supreme Leadership, does not in any form or shape have much respect for elections as they are seen in normal democracies, because the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei considers people as "his sheep" lost in the world and in desperate need of guidance. 

He said recently that we have to show the world our popularity at home and remind them that we ‘respond to our enemies with people’s turnout and show their will and desire for supporting the Islamic Republic.’ They came up with a solution to couple some form of election with their “selection” process: engineering the elections. The electoral process in Iran goes through many steps before reaching Election Day.   

Passing the vetting process

As in any other dictatorship, power struggles among the fighting factions within the regime have to be settled. From the early days, a term popped up in Iran’s word dictionary for politics and that is “insiders,” referring to individuals who are considered loyal to the fabric of the regime; individuals with absolutely proven devotion to Khamenei.  

To make it airtight, the mullahs have employed a vetting mechanism called the Guardian Council (GC), consisting of 12 men, all directly or indirectly chosen by none other than the Supreme Leader himself. In this election, as opposed to earlier ones, the council claimed to have vetted all 1600 candidates overnight and came up with six frontrunners. For those who have closely observed how the mullahs have cooked elections in the past, it is not that hard to figure out this year’s plan of action: a split right in the middle, with three candidates from Khamenei’s faction and three from Hassan Rouhani’s side. No doubt Khamenei would prefer none other than his protégé, Ebrahim Raisi, a close confidante, to be the next president. Raisi ran Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity foundation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine in Mashhad, northwestern Iran.    

However, considering his role in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members and supporters of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK) in the summer of 1988, he may run into problems with the rival camp’s stonewalling if they decide to pressure his weak spot. It is highly unlikely since Rouhani and his gang have, no doubt, the same blood on their hands. Rouhani’s track record is not any cleaner than that of Raisi’s when it comes to crackdowns and using a heavy hand when dealing with dissidents. In his current term as president, 3,000 executions have been recorded. Iran ranks fifth in the world for imprisoning journalists. Over 10 million Iranians live under the absolute poverty line, according to Tehran’s mayor. And in the most recent presidential debate on April 29, a new, somewhat suppressing, disclosure surfaced when Tehran’s mayor said: “Four percent of Iranians have everything while the other 96 percent are deprived of everything.”   

Rouhani had his Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri register with him just in case the GC disqualifies him. The other two vetted candidates have absolutely no significance and are there just to put on a show. They are former culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim and former vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba.

Voters’s role in Iran’s elections

As opposed to regular ways of encouraging the voters to register and vote on Election Day, the mullahs use special tools to guarantee the turnout to the regime’s satisfaction to cook elections to their liking. One such famous tool is none other than Iran’s identification card system. These are booklets, and each time an eligible voter show up at the polling station, his ID booklet is stamped. The stamp on the booklet is a ticket to a hassle-free life for average citizens in Iran since it helps with getting a job, enrolling in a higher education institution, getting a raise in pay from a government entity, and is simply not to be questioned. The stamp helps a great deal in Iran.

Another tool is the state-run media, and on the top of the list is certainly state-run television, which constantly advertises the Supreme Leader and the IRGC’s candidate.  

Distributing goods among mostly lower class citizens with a great need of food in today’s economy is another tactic used by the candidates to buy votes. Raisi has already cashed in and has handed out tons of sugar and flour to needy people in Khorasan Province, northeastern Iran.

Female voters experience a more relaxed time in the days before elections. To buy their votes, security forces turn down the heat a few notches on women not observing the strict dress code. The relaxation does not last for long, and as soon as elections are over, it is once again business as usual and women face the same inhuman treatment. What they wear would again be an issue and there would be no difference between “reformist” Rouhani and “hardliner” Raisi. Let us not forget that in the early days, right after the 1979 Revolution, it was Rouhani who issued the first directive for female government employees to show up for work wearing what he described as Islamic dress. 

And the final episode of the election play is to unleash the paramilitary Basij Forces, a suppressive wing of the IRGC, on election day to use expired ID cards belonging to the deceased and fill the ballot boxes with fake votes in the polling stations in favor of the Supreme Leader’s candidate.

According to Iran’s police chief, Brig. Gen. Hossein Ashtari, ‘300,000 IRGC members will be deployed to secure the ballot boxes.’ In a simple comparison to France's presidential election, with all the terror threats France faces, only 60,000 police were deployed to secure the polling stations. The Iranian police are there to stop people's protests and uprisings in the volatile days.         

The president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Maryam Rajavi, described the ongoing stage-managed Iranian election as a total mockery. She said: “The Iranian people reject both a black and a white turban” referring to incumbent president Rouhani and his challenger Raisi. She said that we seek a free and democratic Iran where elections will find once more their true meaning.

By:  Reza Shafiee
(American Thinker)

Reza Shafiee is a member of Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)