Iran’s election: A choice between Satan and the devil?

If there was ever any doubt that the Iranian regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was on its last legs, his government has now presented the necessary evidence. It has barred the candidacy of the two men who might have displayed anti-regime credentials. Unlike countries where fair elections are held, Iran has rules that guarantee the results. If the ruling mullahs don’t like or fear a candidate, they simply don’t allow them onto the ballot paper.

First to be rejected by the Guardian Council, which vets all potential candidates, was Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and long time supporter of Khamenei, who actually helped Khamenei become supreme leader after the death of Ayatollah Khomenei, the leader of the Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah more than a quarter century ago. So much for loyalty!

Next came the rejection of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, the former chief of staff of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If anything shows the distance between Khamenei and his handpicked president Ahmadinejad, this decision should do it. Ahmadinejad said he would take up this issue with Khamenai. Some good that will do! Of course, choosing between Ahmadinejad’s candidate and Khamenei’s is like choosing between Satan and the Devil!

This internal battle, however, makes it clearer than ever that the regime’s power base is weak and getting weaker by the day. Every purge by Khamenei and the mullahs who support him is a further indication that there are fewer and fewer members of even the inner circle that the Supreme Leader can trust.

With only eight candidates, left, who is likely to get Khamenei’s support? Most observers see Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator as the front-runner. Given his intransigence in dealing with the West and the rest of the world on the nuclear issue, that should lead the negotiations nowhere, which is hardly a surprise anyway.

Looking at the internal picture, the purge will aggravate the political tensions and discord, thus expediting the regime’s breakdown and eventual overthrow. The expulsion of the two prominent candidates was an act of political suicide by Khamenei, who faced a dismal choice; either the elimination of Rafsanjani and its inevitable consequences, expediting the regime's overthrow, or accepting Rafsanjani and sharing power with him, which also would have expedited the disintegration of the regime.

Khamenei chose the first path and by resorting to the strategy of the tyrant - elimination, purge, and contraction, he is making every effort to evade the inevitable overthrow of his fascist regime. Nevertheless, what can be drawn from elimination of Rafsanjani and Mashaei is that firstly, the ruling theocracy has reached its end phase. There is no future for this regime, which only confirms the need to work towards its overthrow, starting with a boycott by the people of Iran of these meaningless elections.

Secondly, the future for freedom and democracy in Iran lies outside the regime in the form of the legitimate opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), who for years have reiterated that this regime cannot be reformed and has to be overthrown. Those who seek to end the Iranian crisis and to establish peace and reconciliation in the region must support this movement. Further engagement with this regime will only serve to worsen the suppression of the Iranian people and strengthen its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, export terrorism and fundamentalism and fuel the fires of war in the region.

The leader of the Iranian Resistance, Mrs Maryam Rajavi, has called for a boycott of the election, and the people of Iran should heed that call. The major gathering of over 100,000 ex-pat Iranians in Paris last year, which I addressed, was a vivid illustration of the Iranian people's choice. This June they are planning an even bigger event in Paris. Those taking part in these massive displays of political will, reflect the desires and wishes of a major portion of Iranian society.

And in support of them, the residents of Tehran and other cities in recent days have taken big risks for freedom, writing graffiti like "my vote is for the regime's overthrow" to express their position regarding this sham election. The expatriates reflect the voices of those inside Iran whose vote hopefully will be no vote at all.

A boycott of the election – no matter how the regime inflates the turnout figures – will send the best message to Khamenei: Why vote when the only choice is between Satan and the Devil?

Struan Stevenson, MEP

Struan Stevenson is a Conservative Euro MP for Scotland and President of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup in the European Parliament.