Once again a major election is approaching in Iran – a presidential election at yet another crucial turning point in the history of the beleaguered theocracy ruling over a restless and ambitious nation, trying by hook or by crook to curtail a rich and powerful political culture far beyond its limited imagination. Once again, nagging questions are paramount among Iranians in and out of their homeland: Are such elections an exercise in futility? Will they make any difference? Do they have any tangible result in the life of the nation?
Some respond to such questions in the affirmative and say they will vote, while others say they will not, for their votes are inconsequential and they do not wish to legitimise an otherwise deceitful and illegitimate state apparatus. It was only a few years ago on a similar occasion that they asked “Where is my vote?”, to which they received a response with clubs, bullets, arrests, torture, and even murder. Why should they bother?
The fact, however, is that in every such electoral occasion in Iran we are witness to two elections and not just one – the diametrically opposed staging of two spectacles of the democratic game: one that the state plays and the other that the nation intuits. The occasion and instance of these two games are the same but their outcomes are entirely different.
The state stages these elections for one simple reason: to declare itself democratic and therefore legitimate in order to strengthen its hand in the regional geopolitics, and thus to pose the Islamic revolution as final and the Islamic Republic permanent – for ever burying the tumultuous history of its foundation a little bit less than four decades ago.