In a nationally televised address on June 16, two days before a pivotal presidential election, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the next government needed a broad public mandate to tackle the myriad political, economic and social problems facing Iran. “If the new president is elected by a significant majority of the votes, he will be a powerful president and can carry out great tasks,” he said, in an appeal to voters to turn out on June 18.
In the past, voter turnout has been critical to proving the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. But polls have suggested that only 42 percent of eligible voters will turn out, which would be the lowest participation in a presidential election since the 1979 revolution. In 1993, when only 50.7 percent of voters went to the polls.
Some Iranians were apathetic, Khamenei acknowledged, because previous governments had not alleviated poverty and other economic issues. But the failure of past government that was not a legitimate reason to abstain from voting on the next president. “With your presence and your vote, you determine the fate of the country.” Khamenei also dismissed claims that the election was not competitive. Only seven out of nearly 600 candidates had been approved to run by the powerful Guardian Council. Khamenei cited feisty exchanges among candidates during the three presidential debates as proof of the diversity. Khamenei also noted that voters had previously elected presidents from diverse ends of the political spectrum.
The supreme leader claimed that U.S. and British media and their “mercenaries” were discouraging people from voting to diminish turnout and discredit the government. In an apparent jab at the Gulf monarchies, Khamenei said that countries “based on tribalism” run television stations that criticize Iranian elections as undemocratic, but their own people “don’t know the difference between a ballot box and a box of fruit.” The following are excerpts from the speech.
“In the Islamic Republic, ‘Republic’ is one part and ‘Islamic’ is another. If the Republic aspect does not exist, the Islamic Republic will not achieve its goal.”
“It is a few months now that the American and British media are trying very hard to decrease the people’s presence at the ballot boxes. Of course, experience has shown that the people have done the opposite of what the enemy wanted. This will be the case this time too, God willing.”
“Elections are a sign of the people’s presence on the scene. The people’s presence on the scene means that the Islamic Republic is supported by the people. This will have an exceptional impact on the strength of the system of the Islamic Republic and the country. I mean to say that no other means of power brings as much strength as the people’s presence.”
“Those who are discouraging the people from participating in the elections are working to weaken the Islamic government in order to turn the country into a parade ground for terrorists.”
“The people’s support of the system must be shown to the enemy.”
“If the new president is elected by a significant majority of the votes, he will be a powerful president and can carry out great tasks. Our country has the capacity to do many things. Benefiting from this capacity requires strong people that enjoy extensive popular support.”
“It is interesting that there are some countries that are run based on tribalism in the 21st century, and they have never experienced elections at all. The people in those countries do not even know the difference between a ballot box and a box of fruit. But those countries start 24/7 television station to say that Iran’s elections are not democratic.”
“The youth play a leading role in the affairs of the country, and this should be the case in the upcoming elections as well. Therefore, the youth should encourage people to participate in the elections.”
“This nation cannot be disheartened. Those who are making unreasonable analyses of the situation leading to the despair of the people are doing something very wrong.”
“First of all, they [election officials and organizers] should take the necessary precautions so that the people may participate in the elections without their health being at risk at all. Secondly, they should eliminate the problem of a shortage of ballot papers in elections as has been experienced in previous elections. They should distribute ballot papers among election centers on time so that no center will face a shortage of these papers. Thirdly, we have heard that all necessary preparations have not been made in foreign countries. I ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior Affairs to make serious efforts to correct this matter and help the Iranians who wish to participate in the elections in foreign countries to be able to do so.”