The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei, appeared on Iranian television on Wednesday, June 17. While he encouraged Iranian citizens to participate in the upcoming 18 June elections, he did not mention the Guardian Council and the widespread disqualifications of candidates, nor did he accept the accusations that this election is “non-competitive.” Khamenei asserted that low turnout would lead to increased pressure by the enemy. “The people’s support of the system must be shown to the enemy,” he added.
The Supreme Leader warned the Iranian opposition inside Iran not to boycott the election and said, “Those who are discouraging people from participating in the elections are working to weaken the Islamic state [in order to] turn the country into a parade ground for terrorists.” He claimed that Iranian elections have always been healthy and added, “the elections in Iran are not based on one specific political orientation.”
Observers say that Khamenei’s speech on the eve of the election expresses his concern about the rise in calls to boycott the election.
Among those who have called for a boycott is a group of civil and political activists living inside Iran. In a statement on Wednesday, 110 activists urged Iranians to boycott Friday’s presidential election.
They called the upcoming election “engineered” and “humiliating.” The statement said that “The process of reciprocal deepening and influencing of economic, social, and political crises from the 1980s to the 2009 election protests, the January 2017 protests, the November 2009 protests, and many large-scale and smlller more limited protests have now reached a decisive turning point.” Among the signatories are several reformists, political dissidents, former members of parliament, human rights advocates, and student activists. They said that participating in the electoral process has lost its meaning. “We shout a loud No, in agreement with the people who are fed up with tyranny, reaction, injustice, corruption, and the lies.”
Several groups and activists outside Iran have also urged Iranians to boycott the elections.
The polls open on Friday, June 18. Four candidates – all men – will be on the ballot. On Wednesday, Saeed Jalili, Alireza Zakani, and Mohsen Mehralizadeh withdrew their candidacies.
Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s Judiciary, is the frontrunner. He has the support of conservatives and hardliners as well as IRGC.
Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former head of Iran;’s Central Bank is another candidate. He has the support of the moderates.
Mohsen Rezaei, the former chief of the Revolutionary Guards, is another candidate who enjoys the support of some hardliners and armed forces including figures close to IRGC.
Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi is another candidate who is a conservative politician, a member of the Iranian parliament, and an otolaryngologist.
Fifty-nine million Iranians are eligible to vote in the 2021 election. The turnout in the 2017 presidential election was 73.33%. Recent polls suggest that the turnout for the 2021 election will be lower.