“Those who will not vote on June 18 are not Muslims”. Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda did not go there by four ways, Friday, May 28, during the great prayer. From the prestigious mosque of Machad, the representative of the Supreme Leader in Khorasan province has used his preaching to attack the many Iranians who are considering boycotting the presidential election. He did not even have to pronounce the name of his nephew, Ebrahim Raïssi, head of the Iranian judiciary and favorite of the regime in this election: all Iranians have understood the message …

After sifting through the list of 600 candidates for candidacy, the powerful Council of Guardians of the Constitution delivered its verdict on May 25: only seven were allowed to run on June 18. All serious opponents of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi have been dismissed: the reformist vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, like the former head of Parliament Ali Larijani, a pragmatic conservative allied with the current president Rouhani, and many others.

What must we do ? To abstain, to vote white, to demonstrate?

Within hours, Iranian interest in this deadline collapsed. Many of those who spent their evenings debating in the virtual lounges of the Clubhouse app felt dispossessed. “The big question for reformists now is, ‘What should we do?’ In other words, should we abstain, vote blank or demonstrate? “, underlines Farid Vahid, director of the North Africa-Middle East Observatory at the Jean Jaurès Foundation. “The reformists have no answer because they know that the opposition is fragmented and incapable of initiative. Many are therefore determined to boycott the vote ”.

Far from intervening – as he has the power to do so – by overturning the decision of the Council of Guardians and allowing their champion to compete, the Supreme Guide loudly approved the decision taken and also lambasted the “Calls for boycott”.

More and more observers are analyzing the strategic choice made by the regime as a way for Ali Khamenei, 82, to prepare for his succession. “The Iranian regime generally uses elections to claim its legitimacy at the international level”, thus writes the site Al-Arabyia. “But this year the Iranian Supreme Leader apparently has a more urgent priority in mind: securing the tools necessary for a smooth transition to a post-Khamenei era in Iran.”.

The candidate for the fight against corruption

Ebrahim Raïssi, 60, is indeed a serious candidate to succeed the Supreme Leader: ayatollah and nephew of a great ayatollah, he has spent his entire career in the judiciary – not in business – and can therefore run as the candidate of “economic freedom” and “fight against corruption”, an effective speech to part of the electorate. “To be sure that he was never corrupted himself, it would be necessary to be able to verify how he managed Astan Quds Razavi, the powerful foundation which manages the mausoleum of Imam Reza in Machad”, note Farid Vahid.

He certainly took part in the repression during which thousands of opponents were executed at the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, but it hardly interferes with his ultra-conservative supporters. A poor speaker, Ebrahim Raïssi could even take advantage of his few years in the presidency to acquire a little of this charisma and this fluency in oral communication used by Ali Khamenei. In reality, only one obstacle could stand in his way: a second failure in the presidential election, after that of 2017 when he only obtained 38% of the votes, against Hassan Rouhani.

By electing their foal, the ultra-conservatives could boast of having all the powers. “Contrary to what one might think, they feel very sure of themselves: despite the American sanctions, despite the Covid, the Iranian regime is still standing, weakened but standing. In their eyes, the only danger is the succession of the Supreme Guide, which could be the occasion for disorders and for which they do not want to take any risk ”, analysis Farid Vahid. “Better to have a low turnout this time around and ensure the victory of their candidate. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif understood this well: this is the reason why he did not even show up ”.


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