Iran’s upcoming presidential elections could have important implications for the country’s political future as well as ongoing nuclear negotiations between Washington and Tehran. Sada asked three experts to analyze the challenges and concerns facing Iranian voters, and whether a new president is likely to meaningfully impact the country’s political, economic, and social realities.

Kian Tajbakhsh | Sada | June 15, 2021

Iranian citizens must decide this week whether to vote in the country’s highly engineered June 18 Presidential election. Of the seven candidates permitted to run by government gatekeepers, none have popular appeal. Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, considered a potential successor to 81-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is widely perceived to be the frontrunner.

Many Iranians will refrain from voting, believing that doing so legitimizes an unfree and unfair election. Women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad is among those calling for a boycott, writing that “By not participating, we can send a message of hope that we do not want a religious dictatorship.” Yet, Columbia University professor Kian Tajbakhsh, a former political prisoner in Iran, explains why Iran’s reformist parties have refused to boycott the elections and why history shows us that “electoral boycotts in authoritarian settings generally don’t work.”

The greatest concern for most Iranians is the country’s deteriorating economy. Considering Iran’s dismal economic reality—plagued by a combination of sanctions, mismanagement, corruption, and the Covid-19 pandemic—few Iranian citizens have hope that the lofty campaign promises of presidential candidates will be possible to fulfill. As Sarah Bazoobandi writes, “Current economic hardships affecting Iranians are therefore expected to continue, and possibly worsen, through the next president’s term in the office.”

Originally published by Sada. Read the full article here