The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the candidates in the upcoming May 19 presidential election against any possible attempts to go against national interests.
The threat also extended to the supporters of the candidates, and any attempts to cause “insecurity” or “sedition.”
“Whoever rises up against the country’s security will face a heavy slap,” he said, speaking at a ceremony in Tehran for cadets in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC, a hard-line military force. “Elections either result in honor and supremacy or weakness and frailty.”
According to the transcript of his speech, published on Khamenei's official website, Khamenei reiterated: “If the people participate in the election, if they act ethically, observing the Islamic borderlines and laws, it will bring about the glory of the Islamic Republic.”
“But if they break the rules or cause misconduct, if they please the enemies with their words, the elections will end as a loss,” he continued, not naming anyone specifically.
The Supreme Leader stated that the enemy’s short-term goal is meant to distort the country’s security and trigger chaos and sedition.
“If we prepare ourselves to combat the plots creating insecurity and sedition, we can certainly nullify them,” he said.
Khamenei often uses the word “sedition” to refer to the controversial 2009 presidential election, which led to widespread protests against the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds were arrested. The protests, which continued for months in Iran, became known as the Green Movement. Its prominent figures, namely former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi; his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi -- were detained and have been under house arrest for the past eight years.
Khamenei’s comments came as Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said his agents had disrupted a plot to cause disruptions in the election process. Earlier, the head of the judiciary, Sadiq Larijani, and some of his top colleagues had also warned against violent protests similar to those of 2009.
However, there has been no indication of major disruptions ahead of May 19 election.
Nevertheless, the war of words between the candidates is clearly intensifying at an unprecedented pace.
Incumbent Hassan Rouhani has lambasted one of his main challengers, Ebrahim Raeisi, for tax evasion regarding Astan Quds Razavi, a financial empire under his supervision. Rouhani has also accused Raeisi of having a role in executing and incarcerating people over the past 38 years while holding various high-level positions in the judiciary.
In response, Raeisi has accused Rouhani of aggression.
“Your literature is offending the people. … Well, instead of anger, report your record to the people. There’s no excuse for insulting your rivals,” he said.
The other main challenger, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, has also bitterly criticized the government’s economic record, in unison with Raeisi.
Meanwhile, Raeisi and Ghalibaf have maintained their promise to significantly increase the distribution of subsidies, or cash handouts, to the people.
Labeling such promises "hollow" and "lies," Rouhani said, “To increase the handouts, the government should borrow from the central bank, and that would result in 800 percent inflation, similar to what Venezuela is currently suffering from.”
Khamenei’s speech is a reaction to these heated arguments between the candidates. He had advised them to avoid triggering ideological, geographical, lingual, or ethnic differences.
"If anyone wants to rise against security of the country, he will certainly face a harsh response,” the Supreme Leader once again warned.