The next Iranian presidential election, scheduled for June 18, is fast approaching. And once again, Iranians inside and outside their homeland are busy debating whether or not they should vote – whether the vote would make a difference.
In the Islamic Republic, which is categorically undemocratic in its very constitutional foundations, there is understandable apathy and mistrust in the whole idea of voting.
So what to do: go and vote and thus implicitly legitimize a non-democratic state or stay at home and denounce its lack of legitimacy? That is the question.
An overwhelming majority of Iranians are not entirely happy with either option – and, more importantly, cannot stand the forces that herald them.
On the one hand, there is the regime in power, which claims to respect the right of the Iranian people to choose their leaders and encourage them to vote in their elections. But he also carefully examines all candidates and only allows those who are loyal to the regime to come forward.
Opposing them are all the colorful “opposition” forces outside the county who encourage the Iranians to boycott the fraudulent elections with the slogan “No to the Islamic Republic” – as if those considering voting are saying ” Yes to the Islamic Republic ”.
These two opposing forces have their respective resources and constituencies.
The ruling regime will most certainly mobilize its vast material means and propaganda mechanisms to give the impression that everything is hunky-dory in La La Land of the Islamic Republic and that people are enthusiastically rushing to confirm their revolutionary confidence in their militant leaders.
The opposite side, meanwhile, is trying to sell the idea that the entire people led by the Islamic Republic are ready to revolt and bring to power either Reza Pahlavi (monarchist) or Maryam Rajavi (occultist). They have the Saudis, the Israelis and reactionary American politicians like Rudy Giuliani on their side.
“A plague on your two houses!”
Between these two fatal fictions stands the fate of some 80 million human beings who cannot stand any of these infamous camps and wish them “a plague on your two houses!”
So come on the happy month of June, what would it mean if this silenced majority chooses to vote or chooses not to vote?
Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Perhaps not the regime’s fraudulent elections and their results, but something completely different is guiding the political process in Iran.
Indeed, if we look at the Green Movement of 2009, the Student Uprising of 1999, the Reform Movement of 1997, and even the upheaval that followed the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, we can easily see that the Iranian people have them. attempts at sovereignty are not centered on the ballot box.
Since the very creation of the Islamic Republic, multiple layers of Iranian society have opposed its ideological machinations. This does not mean that those who oppose the regime are all secular in their moral imaginations or liberal in their policies, or are waiting for the US military to come and release them as they “liberated” Iraq or Afghanistan. It just means that they don’t support the ruling theocracy. They think they deserve better. They do.
Some of these people vote in elections and others choose not to. But the periodic rise and crescendo of the vote in Iran does not indicate an assertion of the authority and legitimacy of the ruling regime. And a drop in voter turnout – as expected in the June elections – does not signal a desire for outside intervention.
The whole course of democratic uprisings in countries like Iran shows the emergence of the sovereignty of nations and not the legitimacy of states making false claims to them. The ruling states in Iran, Egypt, Syria and many other countries around them have long lost any legitimate claim to representing the nations they systematically brutalize – whether or not they continue to hold fraudulent elections. .
State legitimacy versus national sovereignty
Sovereignty, in this context, is the inalienable authority of nations within their homeland. Here, sovereignty is not attributed to the state apparatus which wrongly claims ultimate authority. Here, sovereignty marks the nation’s authority over itself, itself authorizing its own policy. The Islamic Republic claims de jure authority through its militant reading of Islamic law, to which it is of course legally entitled, despite the powerful objections of many leading Shia jurists.
But even if all the Shiite jurists on planet Earth would come together and adhere to the categorically undemocratic doctrine of “velayat-e faqih” (supreme authority of the jurisconsult), this claim to de jure authority would not translate into legitimate authority of facto when the nation itself is able to reject that authority. Based on the undemocratic doctrinal idea of velayat-e faqih, the Islamic Republic simply does not have the very institutional emphasis on state legitimacy.
The entire apparatus of the Islamic Republic is therefore maintained by multiple layers of security, intelligence and military apparatus. Critical thinkers in Iran call it “dolat-e padegani” (garrison state). The ordinary and peaceful citizens of this ill-gotten “Republic” cannot protest against the illegitimacy of this regime. So, with every election that the state sets out to propagate as a sign of its own legitimacy, the nation uses it for entirely different purposes. Whether they vote or not, they make it a carnival occasion to dismantle the very reason for the state in power.
You may wonder how we know and where the barometer of this critical national consciousness is. The answer is very simple. The state itself proposes it, because it is so aware and nervous of its own illegitimacy that it considers every parliamentary or presidential election as a sign of its legitimacy.
Have you ever seen an election anywhere in the world with a democracy claim where the election is seen as anything other than a contest between opposing political parties – say between Democrats and Republicans in the United States, Labor and Tories in the UK or BJP and Congress in India?
This is not the case in the Islamic Republic. The electoral successes and failures of reformists, moderates and principalities in Iran are quite tangential to the overall concerns of the Supreme Leader and his club of clerical fraternity that explode the legitimacy of the state before and after each election. It does not matter which political faction of the same ruling regime wins as the state can stage the spectacle of its anguished crisis of legitimacy.
National elections do not take place between opposing political parties competing for the confidence of citizens. They stand between the systematically raped nation and the blatantly violent state. The more the state propaganda machine explodes its legitimacy, the more severe its crisis of legitimacy.
Democracy in a post-democratic world
But what exactly does democracy mean if a racist quack like Donald Trump, a delusional Islamophobe like Narendra Modi, a vulgar thug like Jair Bolsonaro, or a whole bunch of neo-fascist xenophobes across Europe are its crowning glory?
As the United States moves away from the terror of Donald Trump and desperately tries to find hope in Biden, the Shiite clergy in power in Iran are relying on their militant claim for legitimacy that eluded them from the first day they thought they had a Republic in their name. So they rule with brutal and relentless illegitimacy – much like Sisi’s military junta in Egypt, or the Assad regime in Syria.
As the ruling regime in Iran stages democratic pantomime shows and feeds them to their boring news feeds and captured audiences, Iranians inside and outside their country are yawning and rocking their remote controls to one or the other satellite station that the Saudis have funded and equipped themselves. shaved guys and Barbie anchors to compete for their optical fantasies. Because there is no business like the show business of democracy.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.