Mustafa Fahs

Pezeshkian and Jalili Between Two Scenarios

The low turnout in the presidential elections disappointed the Iranian regime that sought to demonstrate its legitimacy.

The participation rate, which did not exceed 40 percent for the first time in the history of presidential elections, appears to complement the citizens’ unfavorable position towards several previous entitlements they had boycotted.

Those started with the presidential elections in 2021, in which the authorities succeeded in engineering the arrival of the late Mr. Ibrahim Raisi to the presidency, to this year’s legislative elections, which saw an elite rebellion and popular boycott that had never occurred in the history of Iran, all the way to the early presidential elections that actually revealed the size of the pro-regime voting bloc, or what has become known as the loyalty bloc, which estimates suggest that it does not exceed 20 percent of the Iranian voters.

In the first round, the reformist candidate received approximately 10.5 million votes out of more than 24 million who cast their ballot, which represents somewhat half of the number of voters. This means that the loyalist voting bloc, at its best, does not exceed 14 million combined votes, not only out of the citizens who actually participated, but also those who are entitled to vote, who are approximately 62 million voters.

This also means that the minority supporting the regime no longer exceeds 15 percent of Iranian public opinion, which opens the door to possibilities and scenarios that the regime may face after the ballot boxes close, and at the end of the counting process.

In all likelihood, the loyalist camp, with its two civilian and military parts, does not seem to be harmonious, especially after the military’s harsh defeat in the elections, and the withdrawal of the representative of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, from the competition with a wide difference in votes between him and his competitor from the same camp, Saeed Jalili.

This raises questions about the cohesion of this front, and whether it will unite behind Jalili or will be divided over him. This seems possible after influential figures from the Ghalibaf camp later joined Masoud Pezeshkian’s campaign. Moreover, Vahid Haghanian, the closest to the spiritual guide and the candidate who was not approved by the Guardian Council, has also announced his support for the reformist candidate.

On the other hand, the reformist voters’ enthusiasm for the possibility of participating in the elections is increasing. This is not necessarily out of conviction in the possibility of change from within the authority, but rather in favor of a punitive or malicious vote in a transitional phase that may be pivotal, and which can bring the reformist movement - even if it is shackled by the guide’s authority - back to the forefront, and makes it a speculative partner in this interim phase.

This will reshuffle the cards within the fundamentalist camp, and hinder its project of complete control over power, in the event of the guide’s departure.

There are only two scenarios: The first is a repetition of 1997, when the conservative movement suffered the largest electoral defeat in its history, at the hands of Sayyed Mohammad Khatami, who obtained more than 70 percent of votes, and defeated the regime candidate at the time, Ali Nategh-Nouri. The large gap in the results prevented the regime from even thinking about falsifying them, or even playing with the percentage of voters who supported Khatami.

It was surprising to see Mr. Khatami receiving the highest percentage of votes in the ballot box in which the spiritual leader cast his ballot.

As for the second scenario, it can be said that it will be similar to the 2009 electoral race between the reformist leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. All the data at that time pointed to Mousavi’s victory, whose voter bloc included, in addition to the reformists, voters within the conservative camp, due to his legacy and role in the history of the revolution and the establishment of the Islamic regime and the great confidence of the founding guide.

But the regime then made up its mind and decided to intervene in favor of its candidate, Ahmadinejad, while the reformist forces accused the regime of forging the elections. This led to the eruption of what was known as the “Green Revolution” in the streets, in response to the election manipulation.