Boycotting Elections: A Civil Tool to Counter Tyranny in Iran

Luxembourg - June 22, 2024
Ehsan TARINIA - In recent years, Iran has faced significant political and social transformations. These changes have been particularly marked under the leadership of the grand dictator, Seyed Ali Khamenei, following events such as the massacres of autumn 2022 and the parliamentary elections of March 2023, which were marred by scandal. The death or sudden disappearance of Ebrahim Raisi, known as the "Butcher of Tehran," also provided an opportunity for some to renew their call for gradual improvement without fundamental change in the ruling regime. However, Ali Khamenei, with his purification program in the last three elections, has not even tolerated minimal competition, engineering the results to ensure complete obedience from the candidates.

In this situation, some try to attribute the inefficiency, oppression, and disorder of the regime to the lack of electoral participation, as if these electoral farces could fundamentally transform the country. This view is not only incorrect but also a form of public deception.

The successful boycott of the 2023 parliamentary elections showed that the majority of people have concluded that participation in these elections is futile. This boycott sounded an alarm for the ruling regime, revealing that even those who voted did so out of fear or professional or economic coercion. Ali Khamenei and his think tank are now seeking to use reformist figures in the 2024 presidential elections to restore the lost legitimacy of the government. They might even tolerate a semi-reformist government to claim that they have regained legitimacy and reversed the delegitimization process. This comes as the inefficiency of Raisi's government, economic and social crises, and changes on the international scene compel Khamenei to turn once again to the ballot boxes. It may seem that the establishment of a reformist government is not undesirable for Khamenei, as he could hide behind such a government and leave the cost of negotiations with the next US administration to it.

It is important to recall that the despot in power in Iran has already used this method during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, nicknamed "Hassan the Talker." Khamenei, using Rouhani and Zarif, "the greatest whitewasher of the regime," advanced the JCPOA project without ever taking responsibility for it. On the contrary, he posed as an opponent of the agreement to preserve his image as a resistance leader in the eyes of his few ideological and naive supporters.

It has long been proven that the hope of reforming affairs through survival-oriented electoral politics in Iran's political structure is an illusion. The subsistence crisis, which re-emerged in 2017 under the Rouhani government and the tenth parliament, spread again and worsened under the Raisi government and the eleventh parliament. We must not forget that the November 2019 massacre occurred under the Rouhani government and the tenth parliament, and the 2022 massacre under the Raisi government and the Qalibaf parliament. It seems clearer than ever that no government or parliament in this corrupt tyrannical structure can prevent the expansion of the crisis. The question is whether forty-five years of repeated failures are not enough for politicians to wake up from their winter sleep? It should suffice unless they are pretending to sleep. It should suffice if they want to understand that the damages and losses from the survival of tyranny are so great that they will make any hypothetical minor improvement in Iran's future impossible.

Another example of the country's complex issues is the continuous expansion of economic enterprises linked to the despot's office and the IRGC, which squander public budget and national resources. The question is how a government and parliament, born out of the supervision of the Guardian Council and under the shadow of parallel institutions, can even consider standing up to the whims and insatiable appetite of the tyrannical apparatus (whose size and extent are unprecedented in this country's history) and ask the despot to stop plundering the people's wealth to spend on his loyal watchdog, the "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps"? It is absurd to think that parliaments and governments resulting from the Guardian Council's supervision would dare to do such a thing.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which does not distinguish between friends and enemies, is one of Khamenei's pillars of power, recognized as a serious threat not only within the country but also regionally. The IRGC's terrorist and military activities in neighboring countries, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, have played a significant role in destabilizing the region. The IRGC supports terrorist and militia groups, thus threatening the security and stability of the Middle East and constantly seeking to expand its influence in these areas.

International sanctions against the IRGC and its commanders reflect the international community's concerns about this institution's destructive activities. The international community must continue to pressure the IRGC to prevent the spread of terrorism and instability in the region. A recent and promising example is the Canadian government's designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization, a positive step towards preventing the spread of terrorism in the region.

The Iranian people, both inside and outside the country, must be aware that boycotting elections is not inactivity, contrary to what some claim. Participating in sham elections without any plan to contain tyranny is total surrender. Participating in such elections further legitimizes tyranny and brings more destruction to our beloved Iran.

Many political and civil activists in Iran believe that the transition to a secular and democratic government is the only solution to end the country's deep and structural problems. A government where religion is separated from politics and citizens' rights are guaranteed without discrimination, based on human rights principles. Prince Reza Pahlavi, a prominent figure of the opposition to the Islamic Republic, has repeatedly emphasized the importance of this transition. He has called for a referendum to determine the future type of government in Iran, stating that the Iranian people must decide their country's future themselves.

Prince Reza Pahlavi believes that boycotting elections and not participating in these sham shows is an effective step towards a secular and democratic government. He has repeatedly stated that participating in the rigged elections of the Islamic Republic only helps legitimize this regime and that real change is possible through civil protests and international pressure.

Boycotting sham and rigged elections is both an effective civil action and a foundation for future activism. The fall of the superficial authority of terror politics through the civil resistance of the Iranian people is not far off, and the desperate tyranny will conform to holding a referendum to change the system, abolish the government of "Velayat-e Faqih," and establish a secular democratic republic (meaning the separation of the religious institution from the governmental institution) before the opportunity for a low-cost transition is lost.

It is clear that this regime will fall one day, but the timing and manner of its fall can impose heavy costs on the Iranian people and country. If its fall results from social and economic collapse or a foreign attack, the consequences will be severe for all.

The path to prosperity and social justice in Iran can only be achieved through a transition to a secular and democratic system. Focusing on sham elections and relying on electoral means in this system not only does not help achieve this goal but also causes division and reduces national cohesion. These approaches cannot meet the needs of the tired and wounded Iranian people and only allow the tyranny to continue. Therefore, we must focus on real and effective solutions that can provide a clear and sustainable path for a better future.

Sometimes, in barren and desert lands, unique flowers grow that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Without a doubt, in the barren land of feelings, pure awareness and inner experiences can also blossom. We seek them, find them, and believe in our ability to change.

Ehsan TARINIA, journalist and editor-in-chief of  WWW.SIMOURQNEWS.COM