Ali Deilami

Last Friday, the Islamic Republic lost a referendum

Last Friday, the Islamic Republic of Iran held its first general election since the protests of 2022. Of course, this election wasn’t free, just like all Iranian elections in the past forty years. All candidates had to be approved before the elections by a group of 12 people called the “Guardian Council”, consisting of 6 Shia Muslim priests, all directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, and 6 lawyers, also indirectly chosen by the Supreme Leader.

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This time, however, the election became a referendum. The Islamic Republic has always used the plus-50% turnout in the elections to present itself to the international community as a legitimate and popular regime. However, the series of protests since 2018 and their brutal suppression revealed a huge gap between the Islamic regime and the Iranian people. Anti-Islamic Republic groups called for a boycott of the elections, while before 2018 many of them preferred to support moderate parties to prevent hardliners from gaining more power in Iran. But that era has passed, and moderate groups within the Islamic regime have lost their reputation. In the last three elections in Iran, the voter turnout remained below 50 percent. And even this percentage was reached only after, according to dozens of reports, the Islamic regime pressured civil servants, soldiers in military service and even prisoners to vote, which significantly increased the invalid votes and blank ballots to such an extent that in Friday’s election in Tehran, the invalid votes were the first winner!

The philosophy behind the boycott is that to stand in line to vote is to accept the legitimacy of the Islamic regime and it’s domestic and foreign policies. For someone who has never lived in a dictatorship, this may sound strange, since under normal circumstances elections exist to change policies, not to approve them. But when the policies are determined by unelected institutions, and even when you are allowed to vote, you can only vote for those who have already passed a filter control by also unelected institutions, you realize that this so-called elected parliament is just a sham. When the Iranian parliament was full of moderate parties, it was a powerless puppet, and now that it’s dominated by hardliners, it’s nothing more than an advisory institute for the Supreme Leader. Therefore, your vote only gives a yes to their policies, it can’t change them even a little bit.

Reviewing the statements of the Iranian authorities in the past two weeks shows that they don’t even try to hide this fact anymore and clearly elaborated that if you vote, you accept the whole regime with all its branches and policies. Let’s read some of their quotes:

The head of the judiciary:
Today, Satan is upset that the people will vote.

The IRGC Commander-in-Chief:
Each ballot is like a missile that shoots into the heart of the enemy.

The commander of the IRGC air force:
Voting fills up the mag of the armed forces.

The head of Mostasafan Foundation (a huge holding under the direct control of the Supreme Leader):
The presence of people in the election is a big yes to the Supreme Leader.

The representative of the Supreme Leader in Isfahan Province:
If you don’t vote, it means you have voted for the enemy.

The representative of the Supreme Leader in the Keyhan newspaper (directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, the Iranian Streicher):
Every vote is an arrow to the enemy.

Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran:
The people’s vote will guarantee the resilience of the Islamic Republic.

As you can see, they accepted that Friday’s election was a referendum. The turnout announced by the Iranian authorities was 41 percent in the whole country and 24 percent in Tehran. Independent estimates suggest that the actual turnout was even lower. So they lost the referendum.

About the Author
Ali was a journalist in Iran, working for ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) from 2019 to 2021. He now lives in Milan, Italy.
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