The 13th presidential election will be held in the Islamic Republic of Iran on June 18. For many reasons, this election will be one of the most critical in the country’s recent history. The deepening depth between the needs of the Iranian people, the needs and desires of the country’s leaders, is deeply undermining the legitimacy of the regime, the government of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Thus, the regime desperately needs credible elections that will give it new legitimacy. However, according to the decision of the Guardian Council, which prohibits the participation of a number of prominent candidates in the presidential race due to the ongoing political and economic crisis in the country, the voter turnout will be low on Friday, which raises questions about the credibility of the election.
The seven candidates approved by the council all focus on various socio-economic and political issues in their campaigns, promising to address future challenges rather than the current government to persuade Iranians to go to the polls and vote for them.
One of the issues raised by almost all the candidates during the campaign was ethnic rights. In trying to involve Iranian national minority groups, who together make up 40-50 percent of the population, candidates have repeatedly expressed sympathy for their concerns. Two candidates, Mohsen Mehralizade and Abdolnasser Hemat, even appealed to members of the Azerbaijani minority in their native language for support. However, despite cynically deceiving national minorities to achieve their electoral goals, none of the candidates made credible promises to these groups or openly criticized the regime’s ethnic policies.
Ethnic rights have long been part of Iran’s election debates and campaigns. During the 1997 presidential election, Khatami promised large-scale socio-economic reforms to ensure equality among Iranians, regardless of their ethno-sectarian background. Khatami’s ethnic promises successfully mobilized a large section of ethnic minorities, especially Kurds, the Baluchis, to move him to the presidency to vote. As a result, since Khatami’s election, presidential candidates, especially reformers who are better off seeking the support of reform-seeking minorities, have favored Iran’s ethnic minority groups to pursue their electoral ambitions.
The voices of ethnic minorities are also important for the state. Ethnic minorities not only make up a significant percentage of the total population, but are scattered throughout the country. Thus, the regime needs them to participate in the elections in order to increase its legitimacy and national unity.
Khatami և The reformers who succeeded him, however, usually failed to deliver on their promises to national minorities during the election campaign. And this trend continues to this day. Not only reformers, but also conservatives, moderates and hardliners often talk about ethnic rights in local and national elections to mobilize people to vote, but they never try to keep their promises when they come to power.
For example, incumbent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has promised to allow ethnic-religious minorities to be involved in “all political and administrative levels of government, including government membership.” During his presidential campaign. He also promised to allow the mother tongues of ethnic minority groups, such as Azerbaijani, Kurdish and Arabic, to be taught in Iranian schools, in accordance with Article 15 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that the “official language (written) (Persian)” in the Persian press և The use of regional and tribal languages in the media, as well as in the teaching of their literature in schools, is permitted in addition to Persian. ”
However, after winning the election, with the help of national minorities, he failed to fulfill these promises. He even recently stated that he did not understand the need to teach ethnic minority mother tongues in schools, arguing that such a move could even “pose a threat to Persian and marginalize it.”
Candidates tend to present the concerns of national minorities during election cycles, but ignore them altogether after taking power will widen the long-standing gap in trust between these groups, the “political class in Iran”. This effect was most evident during the 2009 Green Movement. While in thousands of Persian cities in Iran, such as Isfahan and Shiraz, thousands of people took to the streets to protest in support of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. In the disputed 2009 presidential election, no ethnic minority region joined the protests.
Groups of national minorities in Iran actively participated in 1979. Revolution, but after that they were completely out of the political arena. The first Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, promised ethnic groups greater rights as the revolution unfolded, but in the following years responded to their demands for equality by executing their leaders, destroying their homes and villages, and slaughtering them on other horses. on state violence and discrimination. Since then, Iranian politicians across the political spectrum have remembered ethnic minority groups during election seasons, promising to secure their votes but ultimately turning a blind eye to their plight.
Today, this vicious circle has not been broken, but it must be not only for the welfare of the Iranian people, but also for the welfare of the state. If, after the June 18 elections, the candidates who have expressed their sympathy for these groups are once again ignored, the discontent between the ethnic groups and Tehran will increase. If those in power in Tehran continue their oppressive ethnic policies, stubborn Shiite central discourses, empty promises of equality, the Iranian people will remain divided, the regime can not demand a new demand for legitimacy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Al Jazeera.