Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 31, 2021, when Jamal Orf, the Political Deputy Interior Minister and in charge of the “elections”, attended a conference whose agenda was to “lay the groundwork for the best performance on June 18 elections” and political, security and social deputies from governor offices from across the country attended. He announced, “all capacities must be used to increase participation,” and revealed one of these “capacities” of the Interior Ministry in this area at the same meeting. Referring to a poll conducted by ISPA, a center run by the University Jihad, Orf said that the turnout in the presidential election is about 40 percent.
ISPA, however, estimated the turnout at 36 percent after the seventh-wave poll cited by Jamal Orf in his remarks. Increased public participation, gaining public trust in just two weeks, especially in Iran where it has seen the November 2019 massacre, the IRGC missile attack on the Ukrainian passenger plane (PS752), the execution of Navid Afkari and Ruhollah Zam, the killing of fuel carriers in Sistan-Baluchestan, and rampant inflation, the inability and mismanagement of the government to deal with the deadly waves and ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, and many other such crimes and catastrophes in the past year alone, is certainly beyond the power of the Ministry of Interior or any other organization.
But what is within the capabilities of the system is manipulation of statistics and use of polling institutes as propaganda instruments. The activity of these institutions in Iran is conditional on this principle. These affiliated institutions are able to work in the suffocation of the sacred system only if used as an instrument. The Iranian Students Polling Agency, ISPA, conducted a public opinion poll after the protests in December 2017, at the request of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Presidential Office. Mohammad Aghasi, the head of ISPA, while presenting the results of the poll on February 6, 2018, stated that it was very difficult to conduct an opinion poll on the protests, because some of the questioners of this center were arrested while working. In a system where the questioner of an authorized and government-affiliated institution has to ask questions out of fear of arrest, one should not expect the people answering the questions to express their true opinion honestly and unequivocally. Or if they do, that institution will publish them. Another example: Future Research Institute. The head and members of the board of directors of this institute were arrested and sent to prison in 2002 after the release of a poll results on charges of espionage and contact with foreigners, ordered by Judge Saeed Mortazavi. The results of the Future Institute poll at the time showed that more than 75% of people wanted to build relationships and negotiate with the United States. The judiciary declared the results unrealistic, the poll falsified and commissioned by foreigners’ intelligence services. In a speech on November 4, 2002, on the anniversary of the US embassy occupation by “students following Imam Khomeini’s line,” Ali Khamenei called the talks with the United States a “betrayal” and called the poll a forgery and result of cooperation between “intimidating domestic agents and foreign enemies.” One of the detained members of the board of Future Research Institute was, Abbas Abdi, a “student following the Imam’s line.” Abdi was one the ones who climbed the wall of the US embassy on November 4, 1979, two decades before Khamenei’s speech in 2002, and held 66 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.
In the Islamic Republic, measuring public opinion is prohibited if it leads to the reflection of the real image of public opinion. Therefore, polls whose topics are related to “system security” issues cannot be real.
In a speech yesterday, Ali Khamenei explicitly stated that the “turnout rate” in Friday’s election was a “security number”, and that not participating in the “elections” is inferred as distance between people and the regime.
The message to the intelligence services and election officials at the Interior Ministry was very clear: use all capacities to increase the turnout.
That is why, when Jamal Orf in a press conference three days ago, on Monday, June 14, 2021, said that he estimates a 37-47% turnout, according to the polls, which he declined to name, despite the fact that he had inflated the actual results significantly in favor of the regime’s interests, was faced with a wave of threats and warnings from the media and elements affiliated with the security agencies and IRGC. One day after the person in charge of elections’ “decrease-increase,” on June 15, Tasnim News Agency reminded him of the “consequences of an ill-considered statement”: “The person in charge of holding elections has preferred to announce a floor and a ceiling for turnout for unknown reasons, what is the benefit of this statement for the elections? And basically, is this his duty?” Immediately after this “dismissal” from the election headquarters of the Interior Ministry, this media outlet saw it as its duty to write about “some valid polls” which do not have any name in the article, and foresees “participation of 50% and more.”
On June 16, Tasnim, in another article quoted Hossein Mozaffar, former member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and Minister of Education in Khatami’s administration, calling Jamal Orf’s remarks “deceptive” and upgraded Hossein Mozaffar’s “beliefs” about the turnout to a scientific poll: “We believe that people’s participation will definitely be above 50%.”
In several articles, the IRGC-affiliated media confirmed the regime’s and “Supreme Leader’s” desired level of participation at the “elections” a level above 50%. In an interview with Ezatullah Akbari, quoting the member of Islamic Consultative Assembly, Tasnim wrote: “According to field surveys and reports, the turnout will be high, and on Friday, with the presence of the majority of the people at the ballot box, it will be clear that all statistics by these People announcing low turnout, were wrong.”
“Hello to Iran, an Iran whose face is dusty today; Hail to Islam and the revolution, a revolution which its name was misused by some people, who gave meaningless promises and sometimes blamed the revolution for immoral things; Hello to that crooked height, to the old man who moves with a crooked height and I do not know his name, I ask him who says his name is freedom; Greetings to the Islamic Revolution, to dear Iran, to the Iranian nation […] I will form a government made of honest people. I have come to form the “government of prudence and hope” for Islamic Iran and to save Iran’s economy and build constructive relations with the world.”
Now, more than eight years after uttering these nice words, which exaggeration is still shining through them, Rouhani in his last days as president invites people to participate in the elections, and Iran…Iran in a huge pile of dust and mazut, in the dark depths of blackouts and bitcoin, high prices, inflation, poverty and disease, in suffocation and blood of November, in the thick sludge of the revolution that has settled in the history of this land after four decades, hears the cry for freedom from her bravest children over the gallows from “Adelabad”, Gohardasht, Sepidar…(names of different prisons where political prisoners are held).
Translation of this article by Sahar.