Abstentionism: prelude to the end of the regimes

(To Gino Lanzara)

After 83 years it returns to the screens Fourth Estate, reflection on the media hegemony coinciding with a global election. Voting has been held, and will be held again, in Iran too, in a political context that has never been so complex; The government of God, more than 40 years after the fall of the Shah, it finds itself at a crossroads, having to choose between isolation and polarization.

Tehran boasts the unenviable record of the highest global execution rate per capita1, a reality so dramatic that it will be the subject of an Iranian film in 2020, Evil does not exist2, which recalls to Reflections on the death penalty by Camus from 1957, an author perhaps little present in Iranian bookstores in the last 4 decades given his revulsion towards violence especially when exercised by institutions. It is undeniable that on the Iranian political path the constant thread of violence continues to unravel, not always held back by considerations such as to wisely dissuade from pushing the American hegemon beyond the limits, which must however become aware of Tehran's regional unavailability; Iranians know that their choices do not derive exclusively from internal dynamics, but often draw inspiration from external relationships, not least the one with China which, in the area, cultivates large economic interests.

It is difficult not to assume that there is a permanent negotiating table between Tehran and Washington, while Hezbollah and Houthis destabilize the area. The roles played by the USA must be considered in the context, whereby Trump's nationalist isolationism is accompanied by the ambition of the defeatist leading from behind Obamaian.

Since '79 Europe has been infatuated with Khomeini and Khomeinism; numbed by an addictive and unconscious cultural and political regression, the West does not hypothesize anything about the future, except for Oriana Fallaci, allowing us to celebrate the return of reaction and the opening to fundamentalism.

Over the last 25 years, Iranians have been calling for social change, alternating street protests with electoral ones, up to the current stalemate: the repression is accompanied by the extinction of any thrill of suffrage competitiveness, rendered inert by the rejection of the candidacies by the Guardian Council3; while even the opposition is struggling to offer an alternative despite the media openness offered by the movement Women, Life, Freedom, instead of electoral participation the idea of ​​a. takes shape regime change more difficult than ever, surrounded by the tangible increase in the migration rate and by a concrete and not very ascetic economic crisis4.

Inflation, corruption and wan growth have hit the middle class; the extension of US sanctions required additional appropriations for the global support of anti-US affiliates with a deficit aggravated by insufficient public revenues not supported by the announced increase in the tax burden to 50%. Given inflation, budget expansion cannot support any growth given the lost revenue from the sale of hydrocarbons5. Due to political and economic uncertainties, Iranians convert their savings into foreign currency and gold to hedge savings against the depreciation of the national currency; given the obvious failure of economic policies, nothing better can be found than to increase the money supply model Germany 1923, to satisfy budgetary obligations which however do not contemplate the satisfaction of the aspiration for a better standard of living. The assessment of the risk linked to the terrorist phenomenon is apparently paradoxical, which sees the USA putting the Islamic Republic on the index while Kerman is hit by one of the bloodiest attacks in the history of Iran, a Shiite country set in a Sunni region, the only geographical entity- economic yet politically capable of alleviating the fate of countries crashed by war and economic crisis even when alone touched from Iran.

The elections for the Majilis and the Assembly of Experts, given the low turnout by the urban middle class and with the affirmation of the conservatives, they only served to cover the scene with a flimsy film of political legitimacy6. Instead of analyzing the reasons for an institutional debacle, net of sunset boulevard of the opposition, it appeared easier to look for exogenous causes, rejecting candidates such as former president Hassan Rouhani, perceived by the popular ensemble only as a losing element in the competition between unattainable celestial spheres. Any political actor, even if only hypothetically capable of acting outside the magic circle of consensus, is put on the blacklist, also because Khamenei himself, at the top since 1989, knows perfectly well that indecision in the face of the opposition was the triggering cause of the fall of the Shah7. There is no possibility of compromise: the winner takes it all, and the elective assemblies serve only for symbolic endorsements, perhaps such as to allow the controversial succession dynastic-religious between Khamenei and his son Mojtaba. The hypothesis that any solicitation for political change will arrive is therefore not so far-fetched more from the streets with a revival of the 2009 Green Wave than from the ballot boxes, also because only voting confers political legitimacy and consensus which, as they are non-existent, do not allow transfers of power between anyone, let alone between supreme leaders.

In fact, Iranians have expressed dissent towards a now dated post-revolutionary system, incapable of internal reform and which rejects centrifugal forces aimed at radical changes.

The turnout percentages were the lowest since 79, although they did not represent a real collapse8, are in the wake of previous bearish trends. Yet these elections were important; meanwhile it was the first consultation after the protests generated by the murder of Mahsa Amini9 by the moral police, and secondly they are of interest to the Assembly of Experts who will probably be called upon to express their opinion on the real issue at stake, i.e. on the choice of the next Supreme Leader. On topic, given the current shortage of candidates in the odor contemplative transcendence, never so incongruous with current clerical policies, the hypothesis is put forward of a prolonged phase of institutional evolution capable of marking the end of theocracy, an eventuality which, favoring the profane, is associated both with the generational changes that have occurred, which are increasingly less similar to religious feelings and much more compatible with the system established by the Pasdaran, and with the possibility that the Pasdaran themselves may no longer feel the need for the political support of the Ayatollahs.

What is certain is that the electoral outcome, for the moderates, was nothing more than the news of an announced death, preceded by a laughable electoral campaign10 which did not allow the expression of all political tendencies, starting with moderates (centrists) and reformists (progressives), increasingly on the margins.

At the end of the ends, it is the party of'abstention to impose his critical issues, angry and disillusioned; it is the silent and deafening affirmation of a malaise which, in a mature democracy, marks the end of the pact between society and politics. Institutional points of reference have been missing, trust has collapsed; with an economic comparison, the political supply has exceeded the demand too much and badly. Abstentionism, a non-manipulable fact and thermometer of electoral success, therefore personifies alienation from politics; it is the signal of disenchantment and failure of both the majority and the opposition in a system which, in Tehran, delegates the most important decisions to the Supreme Leader.

The crises of Iranian consensus and legitimacy are therefore reflected in a broader distrust in politics, a sort of syndrome not limited to Tehran but extended wherever society seeks revenge: democracy suddenly finds itself without demos; therefore pay attention toabstentionism of opinion, which certifies a precise political awareness calibrated on new possible political balances with Israel and Pakistan, united in Tehran by a frantic electoral round, and with Ankara, an illiberal democracy in some respects similar to the Persian theocracy.

In trying to understand something more about Iran, curiously we come to the most apparently distant thing there is, Giovanni Sartori's search for common sense, and the vote according to Norberto Bobbio: in mass society the vote of opinion is becoming increasingly rare: I dare say that the only true opinion is that of those who do not vote because they have understood or believe they have understood that elections are a ritual which can be avoided without serious consequences. they are harmful, and like all rituals, for example mass on Sunday, they are ultimately a nuisance.

Clear, right?

1 In 2023, Iran executed 834 people, after 972 in 2015.

2 By Mohammad Rasoulof

3 The members are all appointed by the Supreme Leader

4 According to Gallup, there is strong dissent both over support for Russia in the Ukrainian conflict and over tensions with the West regarding the nuclear program; the risk of these elections is that are transformed into a manifesto of popular discontent. The data highlights 61% of those under 30 who disapprove of the leadership, while 43% between 15 and 29 years old expressed the desire to expatriate permanently.

5 Iran offered discounted prices to China and free supply to Syria; it also had to deal with the evaporation of hydrocarbon revenues due to financial mechanisms involving various intermediaries and front companies, which purchase Iranian oil at lower than market prices. Another factor that pushed revenues below levels was the stalling of Chinese trade in January 2024, due to the Iranian decision to reduce supplies discounted to Beijing.

6 Giovanni Sartori, Una democracy without enemies becomes a political form without legitimate alternatives, without rivals on the level of legitimacy.

7 Hassan Rouhani declared that if the Shah had agreed to hold free elections, he could have prevented the Revolution.

8 Interior Minister Vahidi stated that 25 of the 61 million eligible voters participated in the vote and also stated that approximately 5% of the votes cast were invalid. President Ebrahim Raisi praised the passionate turnout which he described as a final blow to the Islamic Republic's opponents. Sources told the BBC that this was actually the lowest turnout ever and was actually much lower than 41%."

9 Not surprisingly, the very low number of women elected (11) to the Majilis is noteworthy

10 10 days

Photo: IRNA