On Friday 26th February, Iran will witness an election which has been dubbed as “crucial and important” by Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader [of the theocratic regime], as well as by all of the regime’s factions, who have deemed the people’s participation in it to be essential. The voices of this spectrum are calling on the people to take part in an “election” in which the candidates are hand-picked by the Guardian Council, and the prerequisite for the candidacy was to express full loyalty to the current political regime, i.e. the theocratic dictatorship and its macro policies.
Disqualifications of more than 50% of nominees for candidacy by the Guardian Council and the subsequent re-disqualifying of 75% of those who objected to their barring, should be deemed as a general settlement over the shares of each ruling faction and the role each will play in the election farce of 26th February.
The key point here is that with the results of the re-disqualifications, it is now clear both to the people and the pro-regime reformists that no change, however small, can be expected through this process, for the rights of the people. The policies of the regime leaders are clear. Just like the previous monarchical regime [pre 1979 regime], in the “Islamic Iran” the fundamental rights of the people cannot be realised in the frameworks set by the despotic regime and the absolute rule of the Supreme Leader. The people are only allowed to partake in an “election” whose candidates have passed through the filters of the dark-minded Guardian Council.
By recklessly and wildly disqualifying a large number of pro-reform nominees, the regime leaders have made it clear to dissidents, political forces of the country as well as the society in general, that the reform course that started with the Presidential elections of 1997 and which led to the election of Mohamad Khatami – with the votes of the people having been cast against the Leader’s favourite- will not be permitted to continue as an option for the voters.
In the lead up to the vote, the Supreme Leader had stated that election is the “peoples’ right”. However, after optimistic speculations from some political forces about the good intentions of the Leader, the wide disqualifications of the pro-reform nominees – and even a number of the “Fundamentalists” -the regime’s plotting to engineer and steer the parliamentary election was revealed. Khamenei had previously stated that all people have to participate in the election, even those who “oppose the regime”, but after the vast disqualifications – which must have been carried out with his consent – he clarified his intention of what he had said: “…that does not mean that they can elect and send to the parliament individuals who oppose the regime… All qualified voters, even those who are critical of the regime, must participate… Nowhere in the world, are those who do not approve of the essence of a system allowed in the decision-making centres.” His message to the people and the political forces of the country is clear: he needs the peoples’ vote to justify the continuation of the regime. The people do not have the right to freely elect their candidates. The election process scheming of the theocratic regime of Iran is not an unknown to the people or the political forces of the nation.
On the eve of the Presidential election of 2014, Mohamad Khatami, the ex-President, presented a clear and accurate assessment of the election within the remit offered by the current regime. He said: “If they want to exclude reformists, or some of them, they will not care about the domestic or global public opinion. What is important is that those, whom they don’t want, don’t enter office – and I am sure that they don’t want us to come in to this election. Even if we come through this phase intact, we simply won’t be allowed to have more votes than that which they are prepared to accept.”
Clearly, not only will an assembly of the true representatives of the people not come out of this election show, but also the future parliament will overall continue the same course that the current parliament has taken. The engineering of the 26th February parliamentary election is the continuation of the usual trend in the theocratic regime of Iran, including the behind-the-scene groupings and competitions, the final outcome of which is a balance of power between the ruling factions based around allegiance to the absolute Supreme Leadership. Therefore, it would not be wrong to suggest that the balance and share of power amongst regime’s factions has been finalised in the last few weeks behind the scenes – and through the “Discretionary Supervision” and consultations – and the outcome of the voting on 26th February will not have any impact on that which has already been determined ‘from above’.
The fact of the matter is that the theocratic regime of Iran needs to gain political legitimacy in the eyes of the world to lay the ground for its plans for after the JCPOA (the nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, agreed between Iran and the 5+1 in January). The regime will try to encourage various strata of the society to take part in its controlled election by means of calculated propaganda and empty slogans.
If the Iranian pro-reform forces consider themselves to have a mission and role in this crucial phase of our nation’s history, they have only one way to succeed, and that is to return to the people and try to mobilise the popular movement, in the same way that Mr. Mir-Hossein Mousavi did during the 2009 Presidential election.
Participating in this election at any cost means to submit to the demands of the Supreme religious Leader, and to lower the right of the people to a free election – and instead vote for the handpicked candidates of the Guardian Council. These games cannot be considered to be elections. The outcome of partaking in such games is the continuation of the current dire situation. It is only through a joint struggle and organised protest of all the popular forces against the monopolist function and the despotic tendency of the current regime, that the ruling reaction could be pushed back and forced to yield to the peoples’ demands.
The point is that one cannot claim to be conducting a struggle for democratic “change” and at the same time keep silent about the main objectives of the “magnificent” and “maximal” election. The illusion cannot be promoted whereby the main socio-economic demands and expectations of the people – whose back has been broken under the economic pressure and political repression meted out by the theocratic regime – can be realised and met through such an election.
The Tudeh Party of Iran believes that in order to confront and fight the regime’s plot to integrate and consolidate the power through this election, it is necessary that a wide range of democratic, left, progressive, and popular forces take on a particular role in a broad struggle to expose, defeat and counteract this “project of trust-building with the regime” – which would basically mean bypassing the Green Movement and its detained leaders.
Those who decorate the theocratic regime are trying to once again put the people at the crossroads of choosing between “bad” and “worse”. However, the essence of this dictatorial regime will remain the same, and except for some superficial and trivial changes in the lives of the people, no other perspective is imaginable. It was for the purpose of putting such dire conditions as these behind them that 37 years ago the people of Iran confronted the dictatorship of the old regime leading to the victory of the 1979 revolution.
There is no doubt that after the 26th Feb election, a variety of regime factions, and its political circles, will play with the statistics and numbers and will give colourful speeches and analysis in the media to depict the result of the “maximum participation” of the people as a victory. However, the contradictions between the nation and the theocratic regime will not be resolved through tactical moves and playing with statistics. Right after election-day, no matter how the ordinary people react to the “engineered election”, the level of the expectations of the people from JCPOA to get out of the gravely dire economic situation will be much higher than before.
If the regime and its reactionary Guardian Council had not emptied the future parliament of any potential for true substance, then the 26th February could have provided the stage on which to reveal the inability of the hand-picked candidates of the dictatorship to deliver on their promises, in comparison with those candidates who are both devoted and loyal to true reform and defending the rights of the people in the post-JCPOA period.
The anti-dictatorship struggle and the process of moving on to the democratic phase of developments is unstoppable. The gravely dire economic situation constantly highlights the importance and organic connection between the political changes in favour of freedom, on the one hand, and economic changes in favour of social justice, on the other. No superficial argument can justify the continuation of theocratic dictatorship. The future of our country is pregnant with major developments because the theocratic regime goes from one crisis to another and its only means to deal with crises, i.e. suppression, can no longer be dressed as anything else but dictatorship. In the period following JCPOA and after an election in which the regime has once more determined the composition of the parliament through trampling upon the rights of the people, we can and should challenge the theocratic dictatorship through the united action of social movements and political forces advocating democratic change. Creating the necessary force for real political development and to establish democracy is tied to establishing a broad unity among all the forces that believe in democracy and social justice in the country.
25th February 2016