The Islamic Republic of Iran will hold its tenth presidential election this summer. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won his second term in a contentious election with a brutal aftermath in 2009 is not eligible to run for a third term. Candidates for the presidency have to be approved by the Guardian Council, half of which is appointed by the supreme leader, the highest authority in Iran. Seeking to avoid a repeat of the chaos in 2009, Iran’s leadership has already begun to lay out the framework for this summer’s election, arresting more than a dozen journalists in the last two days. At the same time, calls for “free elections” are interpreted as acts of sedition. From Al-Monitor:
Commander Yadollah Javani, one of the most vocal members of the Revolutionary Guards and a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has written the lead article in the Guards’ weekly newspaper, Sobh-e Sadegh, by the name of “Is the Slogan of ‘Free Election’ the Code of Another Sedition?”
The article is alluding to statements made by a number of reformist politicians, but also moderate figures such as former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and even incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which they have called on people to be vigilant in order to ensure that a “free election” is held for the Islamic Republic’s presidency this summer.
The suggestion that the election will not be “free” was very quickly rebutted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as numerous other conservative political figures, and deemed an effort on the part of hostile elements to instil doubt among the populace with respect to the future election’s fairness and trustworthiness.
In the editorial (portions of which are available through the Al-Monitor link above), Javani actually describes the bloody aftermath of the controversial 2009 elections “ the biggest and most complex conspiracy against the Islamic Revolution” in Iran.
As for nuclear policy, the Iranian regime’s English-language press outlet, Press TV, reports that the election will be inconsequential. “There’s a consensus among the politicians in Iran of various political backgrounds that the nuclear program is Iran’s right and they’ll pursue it,” Press TV quotes a Tehran professor as saying. It may also be inconsequential because most of the real power in Iran is wielded by the supreme leader, on whom elections have no effect. The current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, in fact, started off as an Iranian president. He served as Iran’s third president, from 1981 to 1989, officially winning election with 97.1 percent of the vote after the first Iranian president was impeached at the behest of Ayatollah Khomeini and the second was assassinated shortly thereafter.
When Khomeini, leader of the Iranian revolution and its first supreme leader, died, Khamenei succeeded him despite not being an ayatollah as Khomeini’s own constitution required. Khomeini’s original designated successor, Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri, fell out of favor after condemning Khomeini’s mass executions just a few years before he would’ve succeeded him. He remained a fixture in Iranian politics however, criticizing Ahmadinejad for being unnecessarily provocative in regards to nuclear policy in 2007 and speaking out during the 2009 presidential election, calling Iran out as neither Islamic nor a republic.