Iran presidential election: People brace for latest charade of ‘democracy’
Watchers are silhouetted while following a TV debate of Iranian presidential candidates for the May 19 elections, in one of electoral campaign offices of President Hassan Rouhani, shown in posters in background, in northern Tehran, Iran, Thursday, May, 5. | Vahid Salemi / AP

The presidential elections in Iran will take place today. Although there are a lot of commentaries in the media both in Iran and internationally about the outcome of this election, one key point is clear and undisputed – that none of the opposition forces are allowed to take part in this election.

The candidates who have been approved and shortlisted are all from different factions of the ruling regime and thus the overall outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion – a candidate totally committed to continuing the same strategic direction of the theocratic regime will be appointed.

The final “victor” of the election will be the one selected by Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme religious leader, based on the judgment as to whether he is the one whom the regime considers as having the key qualities to go on and secure its survival in the current complex situation, both at home and internationally.

There are two main factors chiefly shaping the regime’s selection criteria in the forthcoming presidential election.

On the one hand there is the growing threat posed internationally to Iran, owing to its often provocative and interfering foreign policy stance thus far, with the recent hostile diplomatic moves by the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel being of particular note.

Parallel to this, and of similar significance, is the increasing level of internal discontent due to the sharply worsening socio-economic conditions within the country and a perpetual decline in the living conditions of the masses.

The regime is working on a strategy to control the growing public protests in the short and medium term without changing course from its neoliberal and outdated macro socioeconomic policies.

It is clear that a key factor for the regime’s criterion for selection of its favored candidate for presidency for the next four years chiefly rests on the critical importance of safeguarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with the U.S. in January 2016.

In addition to eliminating any further sanctions and expanding the regime’s relationship with global capital, the JCPOA can lead to conditions in which the main factions of the regime will have access to important economic and trade opportunities and wealth.

That is why both main candidates in the election, Hassan Rouhani, the current president, and Ibrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric, have stated their unambiguous support for the JCPOA and the process of detente with the U.S.

The fact that in the electoral campaigns of the past few weeks the main candidates have tried to portray themselves as the only safe hands to take the JCPOA process forward and secure the strategic objectives of the regime betrays the fact that they want to be the ones in charge of negotiating the lucrative multi-billion dollar contracts that are on the horizon.

It is noteworthy that during the controversial and noisy electoral TV debates between the candidates during the past three weeks, none of them has uttered a word about trade union rights, wages, or the conditions of service of factory workers, miners, and teachers – or about the fate of the many trade unionists who are languishing in prisons or being actively pursued by the state security forces.

They are totally silent about women’s rights or the rights of national or religious minorities. This is because these considerations lie well beyond the red lines that the regime’s factions – based on their common political, social, and economic interests – have any desire to touch or engage. Regardless of who is selected by the regime to perform the duties of its president in the next four years, it can be safely said that no significant change will be expected in the nature of the “political economy” of the country and that only certain stylistic and cosmetic adjustments in the capitalist management of the economy could be forthcoming.

Rouhani will no doubt continue to defend the free-market economy policy and rely on a rigid monetary policy and open-door foreign trade and investment, whose main victims will be workers and wage earners, while his chief rival Raisi plans to pursue neoliberal policies like those of the Ahmadinejad government which relied on baseless handouts and “charity” to placate some of the country’s poor.

The experience of the past 12 years has shown that in either case the conditions of life and work of the classes and strata involved in work and value-added productive activities – i.e. the majority of the population – will not improve.

In a statement published earlier this week, the Tudeh Party of Iran commented: “That this group of candidates is a mixture of professional criminals…whose hands are stained with the blood of thousands of freedom fighters, and a few veteran brokers of the regime whose main quality, by their own admission, is their absolute loyalty to the anti-people ruling regime and to the commands of the Supreme Religious Leader.”

Of course this does not contradict the fact that there is an intense power struggle between different factions of the regime.

However, regardless of how this struggle plays out behind closed doors and who is decided as the next president, ultimately all of the competing factions will unite around the following objectives: to project the appearance of the election as having had a high turnout and level of enthusiasm among those eligible to vote, thus lending legitimacy to, and bolstering the mandate of, the eventual winner. And to ensure that the final results of the election look as if they have been solely determined by the people’s ballot.

The Tudeh Party of Iran’s assessment is that with each stage-managed election, the theocratic regime’s avenues of recourse, with regard to its growing internal and external crises, are becoming more limited and its inherent contradictions more pronounced – with the Iranian people no longer able to be placated through a process of choosing between different types of president all ultimately subservient to a reviled dictatorship.

Of course the regime has tried its utmost to ensure that the highest number of those eligible to vote do so, in a vain attempt to give at least a semblance of legitimacy to the process and the outcome of the election. This is most important in the current tense situation in Iran.

The Tudeh Party of Iran has used the election campaign to demonstrate once again that no real and stable change or reforms are possible in our country under the absolute and despotic rule of the theocratic regime.

The party has argued and advocated that the only way forward for Iran to achieve transition from theocratic dictatorship to the national democratic stage is by eradicating the absolute political rule of supreme religious leader (Velayat-e Faqih) and its oppressive apparatus – and that this is only possible by the forming of a broad political front of social and political forces that support democratic freedoms, peace, human and democratic rights, as well as upholding the country’s independence and national sovereignty.

In articulating its stance towards the charade of these presidential elections, the Tudeh Party has stated: “Non-participation in the election and declining to vote for the candidates of the theocratic regime is neither a blind act nor a passive one. It is rather an expression of widespread and brave civil disobedience against autocracy… it is a united conscious move of rejection of the theocratic regime of the supreme religious leadership and for the building of a new Iran free from tyranny.”


Navid Shomali
Navid Shomali

Navid Shomali is the International Secretary of the Tudeh Party of Iran. He campaigns for peace, progress, and socialism, and he supports the struggle for a national democratic revolution in Iran.