PREDICTION #1: No matter what Khamenei offers, reformers will skip this election in droves.
EXPLANATION: Reformers have learned that pre-election liberalization ALWAYS ends afterwards. When it comes to any promises or offers of alliance, reformers know how Khamenei betrayed Moussavi, Rafsanjani, Ahmadinemad, etc.. Why would they trust such a man now?
PREDICTION #2: With reformers staying home, Ahmadinejad won't need to cheat.
EXPLANATION: Whoever has the most loyal and ambitious followers whoever knows how to mobilize turnout has a big edge. Ahmadinejad who can count on up to 6 million votes, including many fanatics. The clerics can count only on seminary students, security force generals, religious police and a minority of religious fanatics. No wonder the hard line conservatives are trying, with little success, to form a coalition. Fat lot of good it will do them anyway.
Who are the remaining voters? People who would have stayed home if not forced to the vote by their employers or by commanding officers plus a minority of reformers who---aware that they'd never be allowed to win a free election--will take revenge by maximizing problems for the regime. Confronted with a "lesser of two evils" choice, most of the above will also go for Ahmadinejad. Mahmoud may be just as vicous, brutal, mendacious and untrustworthy as Khamenei BUTpeople know know who made him what he was and who encouraged his every crime.
Another reason the mullahs appear the worse of two evils is their Khamenei's Wahabbi-like position on social issues, women's rights and education are vastly unpopular compared to Ahmadinejad's. I refer to issues such as Iran vs. Arab Islam, hajibs, islamized education, hair cuts, women's rights, forcing grade school kids to join the basilj and gender segregation in the schools.
Ahmadinejad is seen as a puppet or tool gone astray while the mullahs are so deeply hated they have no idea. Khamenei senses what's coming as is beginning to panic.
PREDICTION #3: The very low turnout will demonstrate both the regime's extreme loss of legitimacy and the deep public mistrust of elections but that won't bother Khamenei nearly as much.
REASONING: Khamenei was deeply involved in rigging the election of 2009 once he sensed it wouldn't go the way he preferred. Should he be surprised if voters consider his assurances that "the election will be fair this time? Iranians now believe Khamenei's promises as much as Syrians believe Assad's promises.
PREDICTION #4: The upcoming Parliament will be a nightmare for Khamenei.
It won't be like the reformer-led parliament under Mohammed Khatami that was so easy to overrule. Ahmadinejad's followers resemble brown shirts rather than gentle reformers. They won't take interference docilely.
OTHER ESCAPE OPTIONS KHAMENEI MAY CONSIDER
OPTION A: Prevent an Ahmadinejad victory by excluding most of his slate via the puppet Guardian Council (stuffed with reactionaries)
TWO PROBLEMS: The immediate consequence will be to reduce an already small turnout to a trickle. The more dangerous consequence will be to accelerate popular discontent and revolution as former regime allies join the opposition.
OPTION B: Repeat The Great Theft of 2009 if results aren't what Khamenei wanted.
THE PROBLEM: The uprising will occur even faster--right after rigged results and will be continous and widespread, as in Syria. This time the opposition will include three elements instead of one--the greens, Ahmadinejad supporters and working class folks crushed by economic issues (inflation, lack of jobs, obvious clerical corruption, etc.) This time the regime will find fewer people on whom it can depend to crush protestors. The Basilj with many Ahmadinejad supporters in its ranks while a majority of IRCG soldiers voted green in 2009.
(Note: This post expands on some points made by Afshin in response to today's Iran News section at Enduring America).
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