Iran: Polling or Plebiscite?

Hamid Enayat
credit: reason

After the unfortunate demise of Ebrahim Raisi, the previous president, in a helicopter crash on May 19, 2024, the Iranian government conducted snap elections on the fictitious date of Friday, June 31. The frail 85-year-old Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, aimed to address his succession issues through these prompt elections. The election, resembling more of a theatrical performance, seemed poised to advance Saeed Jalili, a former Revolutionary Guard general and a confidant of Khamenei, as the emerging victor from the polls. However, the significantly low voter turnout transformed the event into a de facto referendum, with the populace boycotting the elections and thereby collectively denouncing the ruling regime, indirectly voting for a transition to a democratic and secular republic.

Across Iran, over 14,000 polling stations were monitored by numerous resistance units until midnight, clearly demonstrating that 88% of the Iranian populace abstained from voting. This is particularly significant given that voting is mandatory for certain groups like soldiers and prisoners. As a result, in the electoral processes under the Iranian regime, null and void votes frequently secure the top positions in various cities and districts.

Referendum Reiterated

The Iranian public has repeatedly manifested their preference for regime change on various occasions.

Had one not observed the determination of the Iranian populace during their November 2019 uprising—where, as reported by Reuters, at least 1500 youths were fatally shot under direct orders from Khamenei in their fight for liberty—and had one not witnessed the significant uprising in 2022, which Khamenei managed to suppress only temporarily with extreme violence and torture, these elections would once again underscore the resolve of the Iranian people. This sentiment was mirrored by tens of thousands of Iranians in Berlin, who gathered the day following the Iranian presidential elections to bolster the resounding call for change from the Iranian community in Europe.   

Mike Pence and Guy Verhofstadt, Strongly Advocate for Change in Iran

Alongside a significant protest in Berlin, the annual gathering of the Iranian Resistance took place in Paris, surrounded by tight security measures. The event was inaugurated by Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, and was attended by notable American figures such as former US Vice President Mike Pence and Guy Verhofstadt, Former Belgian Prime Minister, and Member of the European Parliament.

During his address to the Iranians in Germany and the attendees in Paris, Mike Pence remarked, “The new President of Iran will take over a regime that is not only weaker and less stable but also more prone to falling apart. Yet, this regime won’t crumble by itself. Thus, it requires a robust, organized, and proven resistance to drive enduring change—a movement that motivates, has consistently opposed the regime without yielding, and is prepared to endure sacrifices and pay the price needed for liberty. Fortunately, such a movement exists. It is the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Indeed, the mullahs’ greatest fear is the NCRI.”

Guy Verhofstadt also highlighted the presence of a viable alternative that could address the broader issues of the Middle East: “I want to give an urgent appeal to the new leadership to change the EU strategy toward Iran and the mullahs in Iran. The strategy of the EU toward Iran has been a failure in the last decade. It has been a strategy of appeasement and complacency, and it has failed. The mullahs continue their criminal activities against their own people and across the world… ( EU) strategy must be the recognition and cooperation with the only opposition, the NCRI. It is outrageous that we are not capable of doing so. The regime has no legitimacy. 88% boycotted the elections in Iran, which is very similar to the parliamentary elections.

It’s time to end the policy of appeasement.

Despite the wishes of the Iranian people, the american administration and Western governments continue their policy of appeasement towards the faltering regime. In the United States, decisions have been made to deposit over one hundred billion dollars of Iranian assets into the regime’s treasury, aiding the sale of oil which finances the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxy forces, further supporting their aggressive actions.

In Belgium, compelled by public pressure due to the hostage-taking of a Belgian citizen in Iran, the government last year extradited a diplomat who had been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 20 years in prison for transporting a bomb intended for a massive attack at an opposition gathering in Paris in 2018.

In Sweden, although a court resolutely sentenced an individual responsible for the massacre of thirty thousand political prisoners in Iran in 1988 to life imprisonment, last month the government handed him over to the clerical regime, where he was received in Tehran with a red carpet and a garland. Once again, the tactic of taking a Swedish diplomat hostage in Iran proved effective.

During her opening speech at the Resistance conference, Maryam Rajavi admonished the governments that persist in appeasing the Iranian regime: “You have assisted this regime in nearing nuclear capabilities, paved the way for Khamenei’s militaristic endeavors in the region, and emboldened the clerics to such an extent that it sparked protests in Ukraine. For years, your media have spread the falsehood that religious fascism is without an alternative and that we must accept it. Yet, sustaining this dying regime and forestalling its inevitable downfall is unfeasible.”

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Hamid Enayat is an expert on Iran and a writer based in Paris. He is also a human rights activist and has been a frequent writer on Iranian and regional issues for thirty years. He has been writing passionately on secularism and fundamental freedoms, and his analysis sheds light on various geopolitics and complex issues concerning the Middle East and Iran.