The outcome of the election has already been decided. Behind closed doors, the religious leaders of Iran are likely weighing in on candidates, deciding which one will be the next leader of Iran. Ahmadinejad turned out to be tolerable enough, but a bit of an embarrassment on the international stage. Khatami turned out to be a bit too independent and moderate for the establishment's tastes. The next one is going to have to be a home run, at least for the establishment.
Possible Rigging in Iran's Election
Given that the outcome of Iran's elections has already been decided, one might wonder if Iranians should even bother with voting. Why waste your time standing in long lines, risk political reprisals and everything else if your vote is likely to be thrown away?
Because if you vote, the government at least has to steal the election. Why give it to them on a silver platter? If and when Iranian government officials tamper with the elections, they lose the legitimacy of their government. Sure, that might not seem like much in the short run, but at least Iranians will be sending a message to their leaders. If moderates show well in the election, the next incoming President might be forced to take a more moderate stance, or else risk another Green Revolution.
And who knows, maybe us cynics are wrong. Maybe elections in Iran will be fairly held. There is one candidate on the ballot that is giving moderates a sense of hope: Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani has already garnered the support of Khatami, the last and arguably only moderate Iranian President, who ruled from 1997 to 2005. He goes into the elections as a sort of flag bearer for Iranian moderates and many believe that he will make it through the first race.
Still, even if Rouhani should win the first race, many analysts are doubting that he will be allowed to ascend to the Presidency. And if that's the case, all this voting is simply a waste, isn't it? The answer is no. Every Iranian should still head out to vote. Even if Rouhani loses in a dirty election, he will gain power by showing up strong and challenging the establishment.
And even if voters are ignored at the ballot box, you can be certain that Iran's leadership won't ignore the message they send. If the leadership comes to the conclusion that the winds of support are truly and permanently shifting, they may be forced into accepting moderate change now, rather than risking radical change in the future. The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded on the basis of student revolutions, and the next iteration of Iran may well be formed by the same.
Instead of simply handing conservative minded people the government, Iranians should make them fight every inch of the way. At the very least, a strong showing by moderates will show the power and influence of Iranians' moderate factions and force the government to resort to dirty tactics to stay in power. While this might not produce short-term change, at the very least it could spur long-term questions of legitimacy.