Iran’s historically low election turnout should spell the end of the regime

By Alireza Jafarzadeh, Originally published in the New York Post, March 7, 2024

Friday’s sham elections for Iran’s Parliament and Assembly of Experts sent a shot heard ’round the world, with voters staying home in record numbers in defiance of the regime’s calls to vote.

Four days later, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressed the issue: “For about a year . . . enemies of the Islamic Republic had been attempting around the world to dissuade people from [voting in] the elections.”

Yet, he said, Iranians performed a “jihad” and did a “great and epic” job by going to the polls and countering the hostile plots.

Especially in light of the 2022 nationwide uprising, the outcome was exactly what Khamenei sought to avoid.

“If the elections are held poorly, everyone [the system] will lose,” he’d warned in one of several public speeches urging participation.

Yet despite the regime’s rigging and inflating of the numbers, the world saw the empty voting stations.

Even state-run media and officials close to Khamenei had to concede the disaster. 

The rival faction also highlighted the people’s lack of participation.

Per the Interior Ministry, the first-place candidate in Tehran received only 7.7% of eligible votes, about half of what the first-place candidate in 2020 got.

The situation in other cities was no better.

On Sunday, the Bahar News reported: “In Shiraz, with 1,390,000 eligible voters, the first-place candidate received 78,000 votes. In other words, nearly 95% of the people did not vote for the first-place candidate!”

Farhikhtegan Daily, which is affiliated with Khamenei adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, emphasized three points:

First: The “lowest electoral participation in the history of the Islamic Republic” is proof the system faces a “legitimacy crisis.”

Ha! Just the opposite happened. And everyone knows it.

Clearly, the regime was shocked by the extent of the boycott.

They never expected turnout to be so low — and so humiliating — after Khamenei’s repeated calls to vote.

Second: Iranians are suffering “the most” political, economic and cultural discontent possible.

Third: The nationwide uprisings of 2019 and 2022, which were “opened in the street,” have “never been closed in the political square,” and the call “to boycott the elections had found its meaningful place in time.”

Former parliamentary security committee head Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh declared bluntly, “The election result is a failure, not a victory,” the government-run Setareh Sobh reported.   

“Throughout the history of the revolution,” he added, “all executive and political capacities were never used to this extent. . . . Everything from requests and wishes to threats were used to get the people to vote.”

Iran’s main opposition movement in the country, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which monitored nearly 2,000 polling stations, reported that only 8.2% of the more than 61 million eligible voters participated.

Everything the regime did, from cheating to threats and incentives, backfired.

Just as Khamenei had feared, the nationwide boycott sounded alarm bells for the regime’s downfall.

The mullahs now confront a nation empowered by its show of unity in rejecting the regime, despite its repression and intimidation.

During the election campaign, the Resistance Units, which had been very active during the uprisings since 2017, replaced regime-propaganda signs with posters and writings on the wall that read: “My Vote is Regime Change.”

That’s precisely how the people voted, in effect, by boycotting the elections.

What’s ahead? More protests and uprisings.

The election is an opportunity for the international community to reevaluate its policies toward Iran.

Iranians have spoken, loud and clear.

They are more determined to overthrow the regime than ever, and the world needs to stand on their side.

It must hold the regime accountable for its crimes against humanity, terrorism, regional warmongering and mayhem, and its mad dash toward nuclear weapons.

The people of Iran and their Resistance have demonstrated their capability and determination to change the regime.

The international community should recognize their right to do so as they strive for an Iranian republic that is free and democratic and that separates religion from state.

Now is the time to listen to the Iranian voices and act.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of “The Iran Threat,” revealed nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak, triggering inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. He is the deputy director of the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s US office.

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