The Revolutionary Guards, a military force over 100,000 strong which also controls swathes of Iran’s economy, is widely assumed to have fixed the vote last time around, silenced those who protested and to be preparing to anoint a favoured candidate this year, having already narrowed down the field.
The successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who steps down after a second term, will remain subordinate to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And many see the hand of the Guards, the muscle of the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers, in steering victory toward one of several conservative loyalists -while stifling the kind of protests that followed the 2009 vote.
In an interview with ISNA news agency in January, Ali Saeedi, the Supreme Leader’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, created an uproar when he said that it was the duty of the Guards to “engineer reasonable and logical elections”.
“The Revolutionary Guards are going to essentially be the most important force in shaping the outcome of the elections,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies programme at Stanford University. If none of the eight candidates wins a majority a week on Friday, the top two will contest a run-off.
One liberal in his 30s, speaking anonymously from Tehran, said he would not bother voting: “I’m sure there won’t be a fair election. It has always been manipulated.”
Sadjadpour at the Carnegie Endowment said: “There is big a question of whether the votes will even be counted. Or whether Khamenei and the IRGC will simply make up the numbers out of thin air – as many suspect that they did in 2009.”
Full article: Iran Guards wield electoral power behind scenes (Reuters)