In the final hours before Iran’s 10th presidential race, some political groups inside the country and abroad were urging Iranians to boycott the election, calling it a “sham,” “another means to consolidate the religious fascism’s domination over the country” and “already been predetermined by the mullahs.” These were some of the reasons cited in a statement put forth by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in support of their boycott of the election, one of a long list of opposition groups working to keep Iranians out of the polls.
This year’s election, to be held today, Friday June 12, has been a unique one in the 30-year lifeline of Iran’s Islamic regime. The race is between four candidates who have been under-examined and oversimplified into a neat package of two conservatives—incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Mohsen Rezai and two so-called moderates—former Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Mousavi and former Speaker of the Majles Mehdi Karoubi.
“The common denominator for factions is their involvement in murder and suppression of the Iranian people, plundering the national wealth, as well as exporting terrorism and fundamentalism abroad,” said the Secretariat of the NCRI. “That is why the Iranian nation’s response to such theatrics, which are performed under the banner of elections, is nothing but a boycott.”
Those in favor of boycotting comprise a long list of mostly opposition groups as well as prominent individuals such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, student activist Heshmat Tabarzadi, the longest serving political prisoner in Iran’s history Abbas Amir Entezam,famus writer Simin Behbahani and Dr. Mohammad Maleki, former head of Tehran University.
There were similar movements to boycott the last Iranian election in 2005 that brought Ahmadinejad to power. In 1997, 80% of Iranians came to the polls to overwhelming put their support behind Mohammad Khatami. Disappointed that Khatami, a highly publicized and zealous reformist candidate was not able to live up to the hopes and dreams of Iranians yearning for change and new freedoms, many boycotted the next election, allowing Ahmadinejad to take the presidency. Most young Iranians recall that the boycott was actually to the detriment of Iran’s political and social well-being, however, it seems that for some disillusioned Iranians, it is still the only way their voices can be heard.
“The creation of these elections is degrading to people because it’s all fake. There are no publicly elected positions. The supreme leader calls all the shots,” said a 23 year old Iranian American from Los Angeles whose current Facebook status says: “Keyvan Mehrabi is not voting in the Islamic Republic’s election out of principle. I will not entertain the constitution drawn up by a ruthless tyrant who butchered our people.”
Though Mehrabi is eligible to vote in Iran, he “did not bother to register,” he said. Mehrabi would have been able to cast his vote at one of 35 voting stations that the Islamic Republic has planned to station in the United States alone. There are rumors that American Iranians will attempt to shut down these polls through protests and other legal action.
“They try to keep people occupied with this fake political system on the outside while they run a corrupt government in the background, and to entertain this system is to just indulge in their corruption,” Mehrabi said, frustrated at how the elections might give off a false impression to the international media about Iran’s government.
“This boycott is a sign to others saying that Iran is not a democracy. Don’t forget that,” he said, acknowledging that the boycott alone is not a grand scale political movement. “We need to see democracy as the goal and not just to waste our energy on replacing the loud mouths in office.”
The Iranian Center for Statistics and Islamic republic Ministry of Interior have stated that there are about 46 million eligible voters. Iranian citizens over the age of 18 are considered eligible. Their voting system is one of direct vote. A presidential candidate needs to win half plus one of the total votes cast. If none of the candidates win the majority in the first round, two top candidates from the first round will go to the second round, and whichever wins the majority of votes in the second round is elected President.
Leaders of the regime have been long pushing for a high turnout rate on Election Day, seeing that as evidence of a strong support and popularity for the regime. According to Expediency Council leader Ali Akbar hashemi-Rafsanjani, anything less than 40 million votes will be a "defeat" for the regime, and anything more than that will be a victory. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has also called out to Iranians to dutifully go to the polls in order to show the "legitimacy" of the Islamic Republic regime.
Some of the groups calling for boycott are the Iranian National Front, the Iran Nation’s Party, Iran Party, Marze Por Gohar Party, PJAK, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, Komeleh, the People of Balouchestan Party, the Pan Iranist Party and the Organization of Iranian Peoples’ Fedaii Guerillas.