June 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Supreme Leader Pushes for ‘Maximum’ Turnout in Presidential Election Amid Voter Disillusionment

June 27, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran’s Supreme Leader Pushes for ‘Maximum’ Turnout in Presidential Election Amid Voter Disillusionment

Latest Developments

On the eve of Iran’s June 28 presidential election, the Islamic Republic’s leaders have bolstered efforts to drive voters to the polls. Yet the clerical regime faces widespread disillusionment with a process dismissed by vast swathes of the Iranian public as engineered to reinforce the power of the ruling theocracy. In a June 25 speech marking the Shi’a Islamic holiday of Eid al-Ghadir, the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “maximum” turnout. Since Iran’s 12-member Guardian Council screens all candidates for the presidential election and permitted only six of them to run, Khamenei believes that a high turnout legitimizes Iran’s fundamentally undemocratic system regardless of the outcome.

On June 27, two of the approved candidates — Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, who served as a vice president under the late President Ebrahim Raisi, and Alireza Zakani, the mayor of Tehran — announced that they were pulling out of the race. Instead, they expressed support for two of the frontrunners: former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf. Yet all six candidates remain loyal to Khamenei and the theocracy.

Expert Analysis

“The withdrawal of two candidates in the Iranian presidential contest matters little, as neither of them possessed an independent political constituency. While apathy and a split hardline vote could mean a second round is in store, it does not mean the process is any less engineered than before. That is how the populist hardliner turned Holocaust-denier in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose stolen election in 2009 is well known to the outside world, first entered office in 2005. As a reminder, these contests are not taking place to represent the views and values of voters but those of Khamenei. Therefore, regardless of who wins, Iranians lose.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“The authoritarian regime in Tehran is promoting a false choice to the Iranian people through a rigged election that is being presented to voters as a genuine competition. Given the lack of meaningful difference in policy between the remaining Islamic Republic-vetted candidates, this ‘selection’ process holds little importance for most citizens, particularly for the Iranian youth. Previous record-low turnouts and the widespread protests in 2017-2022 further demonstrate the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy crisis among younger Iranians, both millennials and Gen Z.” — Janatan Sayeh, FDD Research Analyst

Disillusionment Reigns Among Iranian Voters

International media coverage of the June 28 vote has emphasized the indifference many Iranian voters feel. “Even those who say they will vote — although they rarely want to say for whom — say they have little faith that their lives will change in ways that matter to them,” The New York Times reported. A poll of more than 77,000 Iranian voters conducted by a Dutch research group suggested that at least 65 percent of Iranians will boycott the election — 68 percent of whom said that their position was rooted in opposition to “the entire Islamic Republic system.”

Biden Administration Allows Iran to Run Absentee Voter Stations on U.S. Soil,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran’s Multi-Front War on Israel Has Diminishing Returns,” by Seth J. Frantzman

The Candidates in Iran’s Presidential Selection,” Behnam Ben Taleblu on ‘The John Batchelor Show’

Issues:

Iran Iran Politics and Economy