Rouhani terrified of low voter turnout on eve of parliamentary elections

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, February 20, 2020—In his Wednesday cabinet meeting, Iranian regime president Hassan Rouhani once again reiterated his pleas for the people to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections, due on Friday.

Contradicting his own remarks Rouhani said, “It’s not acceptable that a person says I didn’t find any suitable person in all the candidates that have been presented for Tehran.”

Why is Rouhani retracing his steps?

In his previous remarks Rouhani had criticized the Guardian Council, the body that vets election candidates, for disqualifying a large number of the members of his faction. He had gone as far as calling the entire election process a “selection/appointment” and saying that there would be no competition in the race with one faction seizing all the seats. Rouhani’s remarks, which caused much criticism across the regime, were echoed by other members of his faction.

But on Wednesday, Rouhani was intent on urging people to vote and forget about the purging of his own candidates. “No matter what kind of Majlis (parliament) is elected, the Majlis will be making laws for us. These laws are for everyone. They will have lasting effects on our lives and the lives of our children,” he said.

The question is, why is Rouhani contradicting his own remarks? Has he cut a backstage deal with the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and received an incentive and a bigger share of the people’s wealth to cooperate with his rivals? Or is he afraid of a low voter turnout and has no other choice but to glorify the travesty of election that he himself had been mocking only days earlier?

The latter is more likely, given what we’ve seen so far. In the past few days, Khamenei himself has on two occasions made public remarks, calling on the people to vote in the sham elections. Khamenei went as far as saying that even if the people hate him, they should vote.

On February 18, Khamenei described voting in the elections as a “religious duty” and implied that anyone who doesn’t vote has committed a crime.

“Elections are a matter of dignity for the establishment. The Americans are seeking a low-voter turnout in the elections to separate the people from the state and leave them hopeless about voting,” Khamenei warned.

Meanwhile, Rouhani in his February 19 remarks said that a strong Majlis and a high voter turnout will be a key factor contributing to the country’s unity and power and an expression of solidarity that would force the U.S. to once again come to the negotiating table.

Therefore, all ruling factions of the regime, despite their differences, are in need of a high voter turnout to carry out their plans to preserve the rule of the mullahs.

Setting the stage for rigging the results

The regime’s forecasts on the voter turnout follow two goals in parallel. Some officials are trying to lessen the damage of an inevitable and undeniable low turnout. Former MP Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that this year, there will be a 6.5-percent decrease in voter turnout. Others such as Guardian Council member and spokesperson Abbasali Kadkhodayee forecasted that there will be a 50-percent turnout, which is much less that the figures the regime had declared in previous elections.

Meanwhile, other officials such as Mostafa Mirsalim, former presidential candidate and current member of the Expediency Council, forecasted a 70-percent voter turnout. These remarks are setting the stage to rig the results and turnout figures.

But what is common among all regime officials is the fear of a low voter turnout. A very low turnout will make it very difficult for the regime to “engineer” the results and blow up the voting figures in its obscure vote-counting rooms, and it will have dire consequences for the entire regime.

Hesamoldin Ashna, Rouhani’s advisor, warned, “Not voting will result in more sanctions, an increase in the possibility of military invasion and an increase in the destructive operations of the MEK.”

Ashna, who is a veteran intelligence agent, is in fact warning against the reemergence of nationwide protests in the course of the elections. Ashna’s warnings echo remarks made by Rouhani himself, who in a press conference said that the November uprisings were not triggered by gas price hikes but by the cracks in the regime becoming evident.

But the truth is, no matter what excuse or tactic the regime resorts to, the people of Iran have already cast their vote in the streets of every city and town: “Down with Khamenei,” “Down with dictator,” “We don’t want the Islamic Republic,” “Reformists, principalists, the game is over.” The people have voted to regime change and they will settle to nothing less.

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