Allegations of voter fraud in Iranian elections no surprise

The defeated candidate in Iran’s recent presidential elections, hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, on Sunday officially lodged a complaint to the Guardian Council, which oversaw the election on 19 May, and the judiciary about the prevalence of voter fraud in support of the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani.

The complaint has been widely supported by Raisi’s conservative supporters, who have pledged to continue their campaign to back him despite his loss to Rouhani by a margin of 57 percent to 38. Indignant at the result, Raisi said, “I ask the Guardian Council and the judiciary not to let the people’s rights get trampled. If this vote-tampering is not looked into, then the people’s trust will be damaged.”

The irony of this statement is that, to all normal Iranians and observers from abroad, this damage was already done decades ago. There is no trust in the Iranian electoral system and Iranians are now feeling more and more disconnected from their leaders.

The disconnection felt by the people is the precursor to one of the regime’s great fears: a revolution against the revolution. The regime has clamped down hard on its opponents, keen to ensure that the Green Movement of 2009 is not rekindled. This election was carried out under tight security, and it remains to be seen how the popular opposition will manifest itself in the near future.

From the start, the process has been managed by the Guardian Council which, under the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has restricted voters’ choice to only those hand-picked by the regime. Of the 1600 would-be candidates who submitted their forms to the Council to run, only six made it onto the ballot paper. Of these six, only two were ever considered to have the serious backing of the state.

Rouhani and Raisi were both marketed to voters as having starkly different views on how to run the country, with the Western press in particular adamant that the split between the hard-liners and the ‘reformists’ was a genuine contest. This is not the case. Both candidates are members of the ruling clerical elite and have been played increasingly important roles in promoting and sustaining the Islamic theocracy in place since 1979.

During the campaign, Rouhani and Raisi exchanged accusations in debates and on the campaign trail, using language rarely heard in politics in Iran. Rouhani accused Raisi of abuses while at the judiciary, and was in turn accused of corruption and economic mismanagement. Each denied the other’s accusations. 

What neither denied, however, is that they would both be subservient to the will of the Supreme Leader. Neither would challenge his authority or act as a counter-balance of power in the Iranian system. Neither would stand up against Iran’s support for terrorist causes in advancing its malicious foreign policy. Neither would work to reform properly this ‘revolutionary’ regime that has forced its people into submission and poverty.

There was no choice in Iran’s election. When voters went to the polls on 19 May, they could only be certain of one thing: nothing would change.