June 4, 2014 | Policy Brief

Iran’s Electoral Fraud, Five Years On

June 4, 2014 | Policy Brief

Iran’s Electoral Fraud, Five Years On

Five years after the June 12, 2009 presidential elections in Iran, which secured Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second presidential term but simultaneously provoked massive country-wide anti-regime demonstrations, the memory of electoral fraud is casting long shadows over Iranian politics.

The controversy has been revived by a video leaked by Mohammad Nourizad, a former Kayhan journalist turned political dissident. In the video, Major General Mohammad Ali (Aziz) Jafari, IRGC chief commander, openly admits to a group of IRGC commanders that the Guards actively manipulated the 2009 elections. The date of the speech is not known, but it is believed to be delivered around 2010, when the events were still fresh in the minds of the audience.

“The redline of the forces of the revolution,” Jafari says “was returning to power of the opponents of the revolution and its values.”

Jafari also speaks of the “slippery slope” of “unpredictable election outcomes,” but cedes that the “reelection” of Ahmadinejad led to “complex circumstances.”

Jafari continues, “Until this day, some authorities… doubt the official election result, and some took their protest to the streets.” The protests, however, were successfully suppressed thanks to the tactics of the Guards, including the arrest of the opposition leaders, counter demonstrations organized by the Guards and the Basij, and by shutting down the mobile phone network and the social media.

Iranians were, of course, keenly aware of this. But to hear it directly from Jafari’s mouth has opened old wounds on the fifth anniversary of the 2009 elections. This was likely the intended outcome of whomever leaked the video to Nourizad.

One can only speculate on the source of the leak. It is certainly possible that a disgruntled member of the Guards or the Basij shared the file with Nourizad to undermine the regime. But it may also have originated from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS), which has an ongoing turf feud with the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization.

The release of the tape is also in the interest of President Hassan Rouhani, who has been engaged in a bitter feud with the IRGC, the foremost critic and opponent to his negotiations with the West over Iran’s nuclear program.

In leaking this video, Nourizad, is clearly serving the interests of at least one power base in Iran. But it is unclear whether the video will have any impact on a battered Iranian opposition that appears reluctant to take to the streets again, even after five years of relative quiet.

Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.