Desperate Ayatollah: Iranians Boycotting Election Is a ‘National Security’ Threat

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Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

Both the head of Iran’s terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued desperate pleas this week urging Iranians to vote in Friday’s sham election, in which hand-picked regime loyalists with vie for seats in the country’s parliament and “Assembly of Experts.”

The latter is of particular importance for the ongoing survival of the regime as it has the power to designate the next “supreme leader” and Khamenei, at 84, could potentially vacate the position at any time.

Iran’s elections are neither free nor fair, as a regime-controlled “Guardian Council” vets and approves all candidates, ensuring that no legitimate dissident voices appear on the ballot. As a result, Iranians tend to have minimal enthusiasm for their elections. This year could potentially mark a record low for Iranian election turnout, however, as this election is the first since the regime’s killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman accused of wearing her government-mandated hijab inappropriately and beaten to death in 2022. Amini’s death triggered widespread protests throughout Iran, which the regime responded to with a wave of police brutality.

In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, Iranians protests the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

Khamenei appealed to his captive electorate in an event on Wednesday in which he claimed that voting in the sham elections was necessary for “national security.”

“Strong and fervent elections constitute one of the pillars of running the country properly,” Khamenei declared, according to the Iranian state propaganda outlet PressTV. “If we can show the world that the nation is present in the country’s critical and decisive scenes, we have saved and moved the country forward.”

“National power supports national security. If the enemy feels that you are not capable, [and] the Iranian nation has no power, they will threaten your security in every way,” the dictator continued. “National security is all that matters. If there is no security, there remains nothing [else]. The enemy is opposed to our national power. Therefore, they oppose everything that is a manifestation of national power, including elections.”

Khamenei claimed that elections should not be about “factions and groups” but rather, “national interests.”

“Whoever loves Iran, loves the Islamic Republic, loves the Islamic Revolution, anyone who loves national power, anyone who loves progress should be active in the elections and enthusiastically participate in the vote,” he concluded.

PressTV also noted that, during Wednesday’s event, Khamenei praised late American airman Aaron Bushnell, who died last weekend after setting himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, in protest. Bushnell broadcast his death live on the video game streaming platform Twitch, shouting “Free Palestine” repeatedly in his final moments.

“An Air Force officer sets himself on fire; which means that even a young person who was brought up in that culture finds it burdensome, and even his conscience is offended,” Khamenei declared.

Iran aggressively opposes Israel’s self-defense operations against the genocidal terrorist organization Hamas, which it funds to the tune of $100 million a year alongside other terror organizations, according to the U.S. State Department. The current ongoing operations in Hamas’s stronghold of Gaza are a response to an unprecedented terrorist siege in which Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians, abducted another 250, and engaged in widespread torture, infanticide, gang rape, and other atrocities. A Hamas spokesman told the BBC on the record on the day of the attack, October 7, that Iran had given the group “direct backing” for the attack.

The Iranian regime has attempted to use campaigns to rally around Hamas as an attempt to quell internal dissent. On the day of the attack, Tehran organized a street party to celebrate the massacre, setting up a fireworks display and handing out free lemonade. Reports in dissident media indicated, however, that many Iranian citizens have resisted enthusiastic support for terrorism and even quietly supported Israel as a form of resistance to the regime.

Khamenei’s election comments on Wednesday follow similar remarks last week by IRGC commander Hossein Salami, who claimed that participating in the sham elections was a way to confront “the enemy,” meaning the United States and Israel.

“We [however] have become seasoned [now], and have realized that we should enter the battlefield against great powers,” Salami said, suggesting that the election was an opportunity to “face the enemy with another ultimatum.”

The anti-regime outlet Iran International reported on Thursday that recent polling shows Iran may see record-low voter turnout on Friday. A survey published by the Middle East Institute and executed by the firm Stasis Consulting found that only 34 percent of voters are planning on showing up to the polls on Friday. If that number holds, it would be a record low in the history of Islamist “revolutionary” Iran. The poll notably found the turnout estimate is significantly driven down by the youth vote; only 19 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 described themselves as “highly likely” to vote.

Iran International suggested that the poll’s results skew toward a higher likely turnout than expected, as “citizens answering a telephone survey are never sure who is collecting the information, and if the government is not involved,” so they are more likely to say will vote to avoid persecution, whether they are planning to in reality or not.

The Saudi news agency al-Arabiya similarly reported on Wednesday that a poll published by the Iranian state firm ISPA found 38.5 percent of Iranians saying they would “definitely” vote.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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