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In Revolution Speech Iran's President Warns Of Collapse If Path Of 'Free Elections' Is Blocked

President Hassan Rouhani at the anniversary of revolution rally. February 11, 2020.
President Hassan Rouhani at the anniversary of revolution rally. February 11, 2020.

Iranian news agencies on Tuesday reported that "millions of Iranians" took part in nationwide rallies to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution "in a show of unity". President Rouhani, however, warned of instability if parliamentary elections in ten days are held in a one-sided manner.

Rouhani is a master of making double-barrelled statements. His speech to thousands of people at Tehran's Azadi Square included a loosely veiled warning of a revolution-in-the-making if the Iranian people are not allowed to vote in "healthy and free national elections".

Rouhani, as could be expected, praised and defended the Islamic Revolution and its founder Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, saying the Shah was corrupt. But he drew a subtle parallel between the situation before the revolution and now. He said there would have been no need for a revolution in 1979 "if the corrupt regime [that was overthrown] had given people the freedom to choose".

"The revolution happened because the gate for elections had been shut. The closure of the path and the gate of elections led people to tear down the shackles through a great revolution and to open the way for elections," Rouhani retorted.

Rouhani has been in a bitter fight with the hardliner establishment over the upcoming parliamentary elections, as most prominent reformists have been barred from running for a seat in the February 21 vote. Many, even reformists who have always actively participated in the elections and urged people to do so are now staying, or even boycotting it.

While claiming that the rallies on the revolution anniversary are "elections" in which people "show their approval of their revolution", Rouhani also alluded to the "official and unofficial elections that people in the Islamic Republic participate in, every day".

Rouhani is not uninformed. As the head of the country's Supreme National Security Council he knows that in November and January millions of Iranians across the country expressed their "choice" even at the cost of sacrificing their lives and more strongly than ever before.

Rouhani knows exactly how many were killed by security forces in these protests and that the figure is quite close to the number of the "martyrs of the revolution" he was commemorating on Tuesday. According to Emaddein Baqi, and based on his extensive research at the Martyrs Foundation, about 2,000 were killed in the sixteen years leading up to the Islamic Revolution.

On Tuesday, Rouhani was speaking to the people but his intended audience was in fact the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his men in the Guardian Council, the Revolutionary Guard and other state entities under hardliner control.

Rouhani and his administration keep urging people to go to the polls but at the same time keep warning the establishment in veiled words that the Islamic Republic is not going to last if it keeps going in the same direction as it is now.

It is not only Rouhani who is warning the establishment. Only last week Ali Rabiei, the Cabinet spokesman who has a long experience in intelligence bodies warned that the February 21 parliamentary election is going to be "the most important election in the history of the Islamic Republic". He even said the only way to resist the collapse of Iran was going to the poll.

On the anniversary of the Revolution once again Rabiei reiterated the official line, urging people to go to the polls but not even a man in his position is likely to find any names to put on his ballot paper in an election that is likely to be completely boycotted by many.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.