They’re going to the polls in Iran today, supposedly to elect a new president. The current president, Hassan Rouhani, is term-limited and did not run again.
But the “choices” for voters boil down to four candidates personally approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his hand-picked Guardian Council.
The leading candidate is judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi. He has been accused of mass-murdering protesters in the 1980s, so we can guess what kind of leader he’d be.
There’s also a “technocrat” of sorts — Abdolnaser Hemmati — who used to run Iran’s Central Bank. He is the favorite of what passes for “moderates” in Iran.
Mohsen Rezaei is the hardline head of the powerful Expediency Council — sort of a Supreme Court for legislation. Rezaei is supposed to determine if legislation meets the Koran test. If it’s not in the good book, it won’t become law.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh is a hardline member of parliament. He’s an ear, nose, and throat surgeon who’s been in politics since 2008. He’s the youngest candidate at age 50.
All candidates want Israel wiped off the map. All candidates hate America. This plays well with the voters, although the campaign was mostly about the overwhelming corruption in the country rather than foreign affairs.
In many ways, the outcome of the presidential race is a foregone conclusion, said Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“Iran really has only one important voter … and that’s the supreme leader,” he said, referring to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“So you could say whoever wins, of the candidates that you mentioned … the Iranian people will certainly lose,” he told CNBC on Friday.
The people have few illusions about the outcome.
“Everything has already been set: The president has already been chosen,” said Nabiollah Razavi, 40, the manager of a popular restaurant in north Tehran who said none of his staff planned to vote. “There’s no difference for normal people, whether it’s a conservative or a reformist. Just look — the reformists were in power for eight years, and this is where we are.”
Reformist parties are boycotting the election, calling it a “sham.”
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leader of the Green Movement opposition party, who has been under house arrest since the unrest that erupted after his 2009 defeat in an election he described as rigged, issued a statement saying that the “republic” part of the Islamic Republic had lost its meaning. Mr. Mousavi said he stood with people “who are fed up with engineered and humiliating elections.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, more than 100 prominent reformist activists, dissidents and politicians called for people to boycott the vote and instead turn their grievances into peaceful disobedience.
Note that the reformists aren’t calling for demonstrations, only “peaceful disobedience.” The last time Iranians protested an election, in 2009, the crackdown ended up costing 80 people their lives, according to one human rights group in Iran. There were at least 2,500 arrests in Tehran alone.
About the most that anyone in the West can hope for out of this bunch of cutthroats and brigands is a concentration on domestic concerns while leaving the rest of the world in peace.