The Iranian leadership has a talent of mobilizing people when it is needed. From the 8-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) when many Iranians under 16 (the legal age of military recruiting), falsified their birth certificates to volunteer in the “Holy Defense”, to the mass support of Iran’s nuclear program and high turnouts in lots of elections, the people’s presence has always emboldened the leadership’s authority in the international arena and increased its bargaining power.
Since the 2009 Post-election protests turned into riots, many of the reformists’ leaders were severely sidelined and all predictions suggested a sharp decline in the people’s participation in subsequent presidential elections.
But Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei in all of his elections related public speeches has stressed the need for the wide participation of people. And maybe he was the only one to say there will be a mass presence of people in the next elections with high confidence.
As we got closer to the 2013 presidential election time, speculation over which groups and individuals will take part in the election increased. Debates got hotter as the supreme leader gave a green light to reformists.
The last minute registrations of controversial candidates with different ways of thinking such as Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Saeed Jalili completely changed the atmosphere of the Iranian elections.
Gatherings and street rallies by candidates’ supporters recalled the 2009 electoral enthusiasm which resulted in an 85% turnout the highest turnout ever in the Islamic Republic’s presidential elections.
Now approaching the 2013 presidential election, while nobody expects a repetition of the 2009’s unprecedented enthusiasm, a management of the country’s political atmosphere and allowing different tastes to take part in the election led to the early formation of an electoral atmosphere and changed people’s routine discussions’ into topics related to the candidates.
Contrary to some people’s expectations Iran’s leadership do not look at the current political and social conditions as negative. Actually disagreements and controversies around the reformists’ and administration backed candidate’s policies seem to be a factor in increasing people’s engagement.
And disputes arising from possible disqualification of some candidates like Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei who is fully backed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will also help to make the elections more significant.
The leadership wants a wide presence of people at the next election. Because it will be a reaffirmation of the regime by the people.
Iran’s leader has also always stressed on the “people’s participation” much more than any other factor.