Not by the People
Iranian regime lost its appeal for the legitimacy after the voters boycotted the parliamentary election.
Seven men with surgical masks are sitting at the wooden tables. The tables are nearly empty. Two are writing the name of a man standing at the other side. Behind them, three women in religious Islamic clothes hijab are waiting. Their faces veiled with a usual headscarf are also covered with white surgical masks. The polling station at the entrance hall to the Shah Abdul Aziz shrine on the southern outskirts of Teheran is empty. The parliamentary elections started seven hours ago, but only five voters decided to participate in the busy district.
The gap between the ruling elites and the politically involved citizens has never been so wide since the protests led by the Iranian Green Movement in June 2009.
A low turnout had been expected after a conservative-dominated electoral watchdog disqualified about two thousand candidates representing moderates and reformist groups. This move followed a campaign of the regime’s propaganda and tightening grip on the media. The secret police arrested twenty-four press and television reporters during the election campaign. The security agencies interrogated at least twenty-one journalists after they posted information about the corruption of the pro-regime candidates on their social media accounts. Teheran also threatened independent Iranian journalists in foreign countries. According to the statement by the prominent advocate of freedom in the media, Reporters Without Borders. Iran is ranked 170 among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by the organisation in 2019. “Without a free press providing the population with access to independent information, an election is neither free, fair, nor democratic”, emphasised the head of the organisation for Afghanistan and Iran Mr Reza Moini.
Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli informed that 42 per cent of Iranians voted in elections on Friday. Only twenty-four million out of fifty-eight eligible voters participated in the election. It was the lowest turnout since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, which was a foundation for the current political system. Mr Fazli stated the turnout was acceptable due to the coronavirus outbreak. He was content with the outcome.
He may be wrong. The turnout suggests, the majority of Iranians have understood the weaknesses of the current regime, and the people’s power, suggests Dr Ahmad Hosevi from International Centre for Conflict Resolutions. “Every totalitarian regime must prove its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community”, Dr Hosevi states. “The strongest weapon of the people is boycott”. It seems like the regime tried every method to attract voters to a polling station. Two weeks before elections, the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei demanded that Iranian people vote because it was a religious duty. Prime Minister Rouhani two times appealed for voting. His advisors even said that the boycott of the elections would fulfil the expectation of the United States. Two days before election Mr Khamenei appealed once again saying, “vote even if you do not like me”. Iranians did not listen.
On the election night, hundreds of the Iranians gathered far from polling stations. At the hospitals in the cities of Lahijan, Talesh and Rudbar, they protested against what they called “policy of denials and secrecy” on the epidemic of the coronavirus. At least in one city, the medical staff organised a march to demand payment of their 12-months wages. These cities were affected the most by the new type of pneumonia transmitted from Communist China. In the Western town of Ilam, the students demanded the suspension of the studies.
The water system is ruined
Teheran health authorities confirmed forty-three cases of sickness, including eight deaths. The coronavirus epidemic maybe last battle of the current regime. The Iranian economy has been wrecked by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States after the Teheran rejected a voluntary disassembly of its advanced missile offensive system.
According to the latest available data, published by the World Bank, Iran’s GDP grew at 3.8 per cent but since then, it fell by 8.7 per cent hitting the depression levels. The World Bank forecasts zero GDP growth for Iran in 2020, and one per cent growth in 2021, but given the continuation of U.S. sanctions this forecast might prove to be optimistic.
The high-quality sanitary conditions are at the centre of the battle with the coronavirus. But in Iran, according to the 2017 World Bank's Iran Economic Monitor, only a small fraction of Iranians have access to the clean water. "In the country large and growing urban centres over half of the population is not connected to sewerage systems." Seventy-five per cent of the wastewater is being returned untreated into the environment. This creates health hazards for humans, particularly during the epidemic.
Unlike election results, which can be manipulated to provide a soft landing for the politicians, the ruined health system that will lose a battle with the coronavirus, may turn out to be a graveyard for them. In Friday's election more than half of Iranian voters rejected them.