By Manish Rai
Iran Presidential elections are scheduled to be held next month. It will be the twelfth presidential elections since 1979 Islamic revolution. Local elections will be held alongside of this election. Pundits, the press and Iran-watchers indulge in horserace analysis of the Iranian presidential race. These elections have observers wondering whether the so called moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, will retain his position, or be defeated by his likely contender hardliner mullah, Ebrahim Raisi, known for his key role in the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners. Any distinction between “extremists” and “moderates” in Iran’s political establishment is false as both of them remains loyal to the theocracy. For example current President Rouhani is considered as a moderate. But it’s a hard fact that more than 3,000 executions of Iranians, for “crimes” such as “insulting Islam,” have taken place under Rouhani, Iran got involved in three Middle East wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and the regime’s semi-official Mehr news agency said that the Rouhani government has done more to advance strategic weapons development recently than in the past decade. So it clearly demonstrates that President doesn’t have influence over the state policies in Iran. Presidency just executes the policies which are formulated at the office of the supreme leader.
Whatever will be the results of the upcoming Iranian elections, there will be no shift in Tehran’s core aims of regional hegemony and pursuit of nuclear weapons. The presidential election is unlikely to disrupt Iranian foreign policy in a fundamental way, given that the supreme leader is the ultimate decision maker. Iran in true sense is an Islamic theocracy, where one man, the Supreme Leader, exerts ideological and political control over a system dominated by clerics who shadow every major function of the state. The regimes own high ranking officials have time and again acknowledged that these so-called polls bear no legitimacy. Such remarks are the result of this regime’s characteristic and the structure being founded on the velayat-e faqih, known as the absolute rule of the clergy. A simple glimpse at this system proves no change is possible. The supreme leader is the ultimate power and the president can be described as a symbolic post. In Iran’s velayat-e faqih system there is no true meaning of a democratic election. It is more a selection process supervised completely under the watchful eye of the supreme leader. There are no democratic political parties in this establishment. There are only various factions which are completely loyal to the system, and each currently is seeking their own interests in this establishment.
Iran’s constitution article 110 defines the most important aspects of the supreme leader’s powers and authority. As a Commander-in-chief has authority to launch wars and declare peace, can order to rally all armed forces, confirms the president after the people’s vote, sacking the president according to the state’s interests, appointing, sacking and accepting the resignation of members of the Guardian Council, a body of 12 clerics directly and indirectly selected by the supreme leader himself, appointing and sacking senior judiciary officials, head of state TV and radio, chairman of the armed forces joint chiefs of staff, commander of the Revolutionary Guards senior military and security commanders, and determining the state’s general policies. Neither Iran’s foreign policy nor its geo-strategic posture will dramatically change because of outcome of any election process. Although the president is the human face and representative of the Islamic based regime in Tehran, he is not the top executive decision-maker. Rather, his authority lies in the domestic arena, particularly in managing the economy and framing the moral debate, and communicating Iran’s messages to the world. The supreme leader sets the broad parameters of Iranian foreign policy and strategy, leaving the president with a limited margin of manoeuvring in determining the country’s international relations.
But a very valid questions arises than why these elections are even held if they are just a window dressing exercise. They are broadly two objectives in holding elections first is to provide the people a sense of having a role in their religious state and second is to misuse the “people” and “elections” as a tool to provide legitimacy for absolute dictatorship in order to silence dissidents with a democratic posture. But this status quo of dominance of theocracy in Iranian politics can’t continue indefinitely since 70% of the Iranian population is under the age of 35 they are interested in change in coming future. Vast majority of Iranians really miss legitimate, representative, accountable, transparent and secular democracy. For establishment of this kind of democracy there should be a clear separation of religion from state. Historical and current circumstances suggest Iranians eventually will succeed in separating faith from state. They will not reject Shiism, but return it to its appropriate place in society. So the leaders and people of other nations should assist vigorously those Iranians striving for liberty from current structure. As we all should know that change in the Iranian government from a Shiite theocracy toward a democratic system of governance would be conducive and beneficial not only to the Iranian people, but also for the regional and global stability, peace and security.
(Author is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region and Editor of geo-political news agency ViewsAround can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)