Wary of Protests, Khamenei Takes No Chances in Iran’s Presidential Election

Wary of Protests, Khamenei Takes No Chances in Iran’s Presidential Election

Over the past 12 months, Iran’s June 14 presidential election was shaping up as a struggle among reformers, nationalists and so-called principlists, who pledge allegiance to the supreme leader’s overriding authority. However, with calls for change rising from many Iranians, including the Shiite clergy, fundamentalist ayatollahs stepped in to assist their principlist allies.

To “immunize” the “velayat-e faqih”—or “governance of the Muslim jurist,” the principle that gives the ayatollahs final say over the state—against having to reform, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other fundamentalist ayatollahs are seeking massive turnout at the polls and a strong showing in favor of a principlist candidate. They have even set up polling stations in 96 countries in an effort to project an image of Iranians worldwide supporting the outcome. Above all, they hope to avoid major protests.

Khamenei’s iron-fisted reaction to protests following the fixed 2009 presidential election tarnished the Islamic Republic’s global image. It also backfired politically when handpicked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad split with Khamenei and the clergy in an effort to expand the executive’s power. So this time around the septuagenarian supreme leader, who calls for “vibrant participation” in the election, acted more subtly to “engineer” the vote.

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