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Why boycotting Iran’s presidential election is an act of integrity

In reality, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will decide Iran's presidential election. That is why actively boycotting this election would be an act to regain dignity as well as be a mass, nonviolent uprising that could end a regime that prolongs its existence by moving Iran from crisis to crisis.

By Abolhassan Bani-SadrOp-ed contributor / June 14, 2013

Iranian presidential candidate, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, waves to supporters at a campaign rally in Tehran this week. He leads in a survey published by the Iranian news agency, Fars. Op-ed contributor and former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr writes: 'None of the candidates are of any domestic use to [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei; they can only be used in relation to his foreign policy regarding America.'

Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

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Paris

For today's presidential “election” in Iran, the country’s supreme leader has decided to do away with the niceties of a two-horse race between reformist and conservative candidates. As in any dictatorship, there is now only one horse running. Although at first glance it might look like there are six remaining candidates with six different agendas, a closer look reveals that there is one with six faces.

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The common denominator between them is their complete obedience to the supreme leader. In fact, the “election” is making it possible for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to do away with the republican aspect of the regime and exercise the absolute power that is ascribed to him in the constitution that was engineered by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani after Ayatollah Khomeini’s death in 1989.

This is not to say that each candidate is precisely like the other. Each opens up a different path for Iran’s foreign policy. In fact, this election is Khamenei’s response to President Obama.

The outcome can take three forms. If Khamenei wants to tell Mr. Obama that he is going to continue his current nuclear policy of confrontation in negotiation with the "P5+1" group, he may well appoint Iran’s current negotiator, Saeed Jalili. However, if Khamenei decides to tell Obama that he will determine his nuclear policy based on Obama’s policy on the issue, then Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the current mayor of Tehran, will become his president. Finally, if Khamenei wants to tell Obama that he is ready to compromise on the nuclear issue, then Ali Akbar Velayati, the former foreign minister, or Hassan Rowhani will become the president.

In any case, the other candidates have no chance of being appointed, as they have no role to play in his chess game. They will be allowed to compete in order to give the impression that Iranian voters have a real choice. It is not accidental that a few days ago, the regime’s news agency, Fars, published the result of a “survey” according to which Mr. Qalibaf has the highest level of support and Mr. Jalili, Mr. Rowhani and Mr. Velayati are running behind.

None of the candidates is of any domestic use to Khamenei; they can only be used in relation to his foreign policy regarding America. A quick look at their backgrounds demonstrates this fact. Velayati was Iran’s foreign minister during the Iran-Iraq war and the Iran-gate scandal. Mohsen Rezaei was commander of the Revolutionary Guards during the war and collaborated with Mr. Rafsanjani and Khamenei during the scandal. Rouhani also collaborated with Rafsanjani during the scandal, and Jalili had been in charge of negotiations regarding the nuclear issue. During the war, Qalibaf was commander of the Revolutionary Guards division while serving Khamenei, and, as was revealed by WikiLeaks, he and Velayati were secretly in contact with the American government. Mohammad Gharazi was oil minister and involved in the secret purchase of arms.

Still, Obama’s recent decision to impose new sanctions on Iran before the election is his way of telling Khamenei that he knows this election is irrelevant because people have no real choice, and that he will impose harder sanctions if Khamenei continues the current policy. So Khamenei’s decision to appoint one of the three aforementioned candidates will be his response to Obama’s.

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