Iran elections: The most important ever, says Khamenei
Iran Supreme Leader Khamenei seeks to prove he is firmly in charge in tomorrow's national elections, the first since 2009, when President Ahmadinejad's reelection sparked historic protests.
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As in the runup to previous elections, state-run TV broadcast endless images of people flocking to polling stations in the past, and interviews with Iranians enthusiastically ready to cast their ballots.Skip to next paragraph
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"They [claim] that with one finger" – the one dipped in ink, to prove you have voted – "you can slap the face of the world powers," says a veteran Tehran analyst who asked not to be named.
"So imagine if you really believe it, it makes you feel so great, as if you are doing something huge, not just voting [but] turning back conspiracies of the enemies – it's a small thing to do, [spun so that] the results are like infinity."
Showing the opposition Green Movement has been broken
A key motive for Khamenei is to show that the opposition Green Movement has been broken since mobilizing the largest protests in the history of the Islamic Republic three years ago.
"Khamenei wants to show that the opposition does not have so much support that it can create a large-scale boycott of the elections," says Mr. Sahimi.
"Of course, Khamenei [also] wants to show that he is still credible enough so that people listen to what he says when he asks them to vote," says Sahimi.
Iran has held some 30 elections in the past three decades, but none prompted the anger that burst after the 2009 vote. Millions of Iranians chanted "Where is my vote?" in a mass protest, aided by social media, that served as the template for Arab Spring revolts that began to cascade in 2011.
Scores, if not hundreds, died in Iran street battles and abuses like rape marred the regime crackdown against "sedition" – a chain of events that still obsesses Iranian politicians.
Outspoken hard-line parliamentarian Ali Motahari was applauded by students this week, for example, when he said deaths in 2009 were "much higher" than 50.
"Event the prophet [Muhammad] allowed people to criticize him, so how is it that some people think we should not criticize [our] supreme leader?" Motahari asked, according to the EAWorldview website.
"Green is gone ... but the dissatisfaction and feeling of bitterness and hate [from 2009] remain, it's [just] gone to the background," notes the veteran Tehran analyst.
"Right now, what's on the minds of the people is that the economy is bad, sanctions are bad, talk of war is bad, devaluation of the rial is bad," says the analyst.
'Vote for me! I stand for smiling.'
Indeed, the vote comes as the impact of sanctions is likely to worsen, as US and European measures hit Iran's lifeblood oil exports and central bank.
"Ordinary people don't [care] about the debate going on within the regime, it's not their problem," says the Tehran analyst. "Their problem is everyday life, and prices, and gasoline. Also people say: 'No change is going to happen.' There are no issues."
Leaflets for one candidate, for example, simply list three words: well-being, smile, tranquility.
"Believe it or not, this guy is saying: 'Vote for me! I stand for smiling – nothing sad and crying, and beating ourselves up anymore,' " says the Tehran analyst.
Is that enough to convince Iranians to vote? While many of Iran's reform-minded youth and disillusioned others stay home tomorrow, they will be joined in their boycott by some conservatives who can no longer stomach the world-conquering platitudes of get-out-the-vote politicians.
"For years, they have induced the people to vote in order to 'slap the arrogant powers,' " conservative publisher Hesameddin Motahari wrote in a blog to explain his boycott, as translated by Tehran Bureau.
"From two weeks before the elections until two weeks after, they broadcast patriotic songs and ask the people to vote.... Each time, dissatisfaction and problems told me 'do not vote,' but the speeches of the Supreme Leader, the television reports, and the patriotic songs fascinated me and [I did vote]....
"But this is no longer enough," said Mr. Motahari. "I believe that voting will make the government even more emboldened to repeat its mistakes in the future."
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