Khamenei gambled with Raisi's demise and the election circus to replace him. He even accepted a temporary loss from Russia, allowing Pezeshkian to run.

    A few hours after Raisi’s helicopter went “missing”, and when they were still “searching” for it, Mokhber, Vice-President of Raisi, was summoned to see Khamenei. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic told him “nothing should change and all governmental duties must go on without a hitch.” Khamenei sounded enthusiastic about the incident as he told Mokhber: “If they are found [dead], it will be epic.”

    He repeated the same in a meeting with some officials as search and rescue teams were looking for his president, minister of foreign affairs and others. 

    At the time of his death, Raisi’s administration was in deep trouble both domestically and internationally. The inflation, currency exchange rate, and most importantly, discontent of people from the regime was brewing. Meanwhile, negotiations with US were stalling, and pressure was mounting from IAEA regarding unanswered questions.

    In September 2022, more than a year after Raisi took office, Mahsa Amini was killed by the regime and the nationwide anti-regime protests ensued. It attracted global attention, isolating mullahs even more than before. They tried to control the people, as usual, with brutal crackdowns. Protesters whose only crime was dissenting the system were hanged by Islamic Republic for its survival. 

    On March 1, 2024, mullahs were shocked, once again, by the historic low turnout in Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) and the Council of Experts “elections”! The “Council of Experts” are the ones “choosing” the replacement of Khamenei. Raisi has been a member of its Board of Directors for several terms and he was “elected” again in this “elections!” The turnout was so low that there are representatives in the regime’s “parliament” from Tehran, the capital and most populous city in Iran, who only had 17,812 votes. In Markazi province, 8,253 votes sent Bayat to the Majlis. 

    On one hand, Khamenei was desperate for legitimacy. On the other hand, Raisi has always been rumored to be tapped to replace Khamenei. Those rumors got new momentum on May 19, 2024 when Raisi’s helicopter crashed and he was found dead on May 20. As if, sacrificing Raisi would solve all his problems, becoming “an epic incident” for the regime’s survival.

    As soon as the helicopter was found, Major General Bagheri, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, ordered for an extensive investigation into the crash, an investigation with no follow up or results as of yet.

    Khamenei’s statement for Raisi’s death was also intriguing. He described Raisi’s demise as “martyr-like”. While he decreed 3 days of public mourning for Qassem Soleimani, the decision was 5 days for the “president”, a minister, his representative in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan’s Governor and 4 others. In the same statement, Mokhber was ordered to assume the responsibilities of the “president”.

    June 28 was set for regime’s sham elections to replace Raisi. The Guardian Council approved 6 candidates to run. One of whom is Masoud Pezeshkian, who has been a member of Islamic Consultative Assembly and now supported by Khatami’s and Rouhani’s gang. The same “gang” that was shun by the regime by disallowing them to run or not approving them in past “elections”. The people had run over them too, to a point that “3% party” was coined in honor of them receiving 3% of votes in 2020 Majlis “elections!”

    Regime’s propaganda network began promoting Pezeshkian, Jalili and Ghalibaf heavily, especially on social media. Their promoters attacking each other reveal the true intention of allowing a “reformist” to run. Pezeshkian, on one of his campaign trips said: “I came to increase participation and add enthusiasm to the ballots,” and continues: “Bring people to polling stations…I don’t tell you to vote for me, vote for whomever you want, just come!”

    Meanwhile, during interviews and “debates”, the candidates showed the deep troubles regime is struggling to weather, including sanctions, inflation, legitimacy, and international isolation.

    Javad Zarif who had been part of almost every administration since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, was not welcomed in Raisi’s, but he became part of Pezeshkian’s team to “fool people”, as he said it in one of the “debates!” 

    He’s championing the failed JCPOA and “better relations with partners”, begging people to vote for “their better future.” The same promises which Iranians have been waiting to achieve for more than four decades.

    Russia’s and China’s roles in this election circus must not be discounted. While Rouhani, Zarif and other Pezeshkian’s supporters’ approach and sympathy towards China is well-known, Jalili has always been in bed with Russia. As soon as Khamenei allowed Pezeshkian to run, Putin suspended his “strategic cooperation pact” with the Islamic Republic. Jalili has been vocal about “alternative paths” to JCPOA by partnering with Russia.

    June 28 arrived and lowest turnout in history of the Islamic Republic happened, something that Khamenei has always dreaded. Based on field reports, videos from sleeping officials in empty polling stations, threats to participate, some theories posted on social media, and history of the regime with numbers, the less than 40% turnout has been seriously inflated and doubted by Iranians. 

    After the results were announced and nobody reached the majority, Pezeshkian and Jalili are getting ready for the second round. The disappointing turnout has led many to show their fear. Abdollah Gangi, one of the known regime sympathizers and fundamentalists scorched “reformists” for their worthlessness: “You’re useless, you can’t even increase the participation.”

    The propaganda network is now focused on terrifying people into participation, with Zarif leading the pact: “If you don’t’ come out and vote for Pezeshkian, Talibanism will win!” As if anybody has any say in the major policies other than Khamenei and his inner circle. Pezeshkian said so very clearly in the “second round debates!”

    Iranians have caught up with regime’s propaganda and exposing them with different hashtags on social media, calling the regime “fooling cult” and the one who voted “minority traitors!”

    On June 4, 2017, Khamenei said: “Some people say the turnout has nothing to do with the system…They’re making a mistake. Even though some may have a small problem, but still show up to vote. They trust the system and vote. 73% turnout is definitely related to how people think of the system.” Yesterday, after the lowest turnout in history of the Islamic Republic, he contradicted himself: “If someone thinks those who didn’t vote have problems with the system, they’re making a big mistake!”

    Khamenei gambled with Pezeshkian hoping to bring people to polling stations and creating an “epic” scene. He planned to shock the discontent people, fool them into forgetting their misery and buy legitimacy for his dictatorship, while staying in Russia’s good grace with Jalili. But it has backfired, he lost the scene and created an epic national solidarity against his regime.

    Election Gamble & Epic Failure of Khamenei

    Takeaways:

    • Khamenei called Raisi's death "an epic incident for the country!"
    • Pezeshkian was only approved to increase participation rate.
    • Lowest turnout in history of Islamic Republic.
    • Iranians have shown they only want this regime gone.