Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, June 18.
Wana News Agency / Reuters
The Islamic Republic of Iran is not a real democracy. But Friday’s presidential election result still reveals vital truths about the government that the US and Europe are trying to appease nuclear weapons.
Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s chief judge, won the presidency with around 62% of the vote, according to preliminary results released on Saturday. Sometimes debated as the potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – who wields real power in Iran, particularly on foreign affairs – Mr. Raisi will have finished the race before polling stations opened.
The Guardian Council, the election guard of Iran, has long excluded candidates who the Supreme Leader did not like. But past races were competitive and even unpredictable, which gave the Iranians a small voice in deciding their future. Recognized candidates remain loyal to the Islamic Republic and its revolutionary ideology. But some, like the lame President Hassan Rouhani, spoke the language of moderation and reform despite following the Khamenei line.
Iranians understand that they live under a dictatorship but have often voted in large numbers for the least bad option. Initial results suggest that voter turnout this year was around 50% – less than 70% four years ago and the lowest since 1979. Millions decided to boycott this year’s election because of the already small range of legitimate views in the country got even smaller.
Last month the Guardian Council selected dozens of candidates, including many alleged centrists or reformers. Of the seven candidates admitted to the candidacy, three were eliminated shortly before the competition – paving the way for Mr Raisi, who is typically described as a hardliner or an ultra-conservative cleric.
In 1988, Mr. Raisi facilitated the extrajudicial execution of thousands of dissidents. He later called the murders “one of the system’s proud achievements”. In 2009, during the Green Revolution following a stolen election, he served as the deputy chief judge when peaceful protesters were prosecuted and sometimes sentenced to death.
In 2019, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Mr Raisi for the myriad of human rights abuses committed during his rise through the Iranian legal system. Will the Biden administration, which is negotiating a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, lift sanctions against the elected president?
Nuclear deal defenders argue that by withdrawing from the deal
weakened reformers and empowered men like Mr. Raisi. But since the 1979 revolution, conservative clerics have had ultimate power in Iran. Mr. Khamenei supported the agreement because it is favorable to the regime. It provides tens of billions of dollars in financial aid and trade revenue while merely delaying the day it can build a bomb.
“We will commit to the JCPOA as an agreement approved by the Supreme Leader,” Raisi said this month, referring to the official name of the nuclear deal.
The folly of the Obama and now Biden administrations is to believe that the leaders in Tehran want Iran to be a normal country. You don’t. You lead a government that wants to spread its religious revolution to the rest of the world by all means. The rise of Mr. Raisi shouts this reality from the minaret, not that the Biden administration wants to hear it.
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