Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei addressing his supporters at Tehran’s Mosalla on April 22, 2023

Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei addressing his supporters at Tehran’s Mosalla on April 22, 2023

Iran Gov’t Quashes Chances Of Referendum

Wednesday, 04/26/2023

Following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strong rejection of a possible referendum, the administration’s newspaper has warned of the perils of a plebiscite in Iran.

The government’s official daily, Iran, published a commentary about the calls for a referendum, insisting that "issues related to national security can be very sensitive, and depending on the specific circumstances of each country, holding referendums on these issues may lead to unpredictable and dangerous results."

Nationwide anti-regime protests since September and the resulting instability raised the issue of a referendum on the constitution, with the unspoken intent of limiting the powers of the Supreme Leader.

Amid the hijab controversy and hot debates among politicians, calls for putting contentious issues to a popular vote have been increasing in recent weeks, but the authorities are worried that the seemingly innocent and legal demand will further reveal the tyrannical nature of the regime, especially after pro-regime students recently confronted Supreme Leader Khamenei about it.

“No political system exposes its existence to re-voting,” read the article, adding, “this is basically a strange and unconventional issue that is proposed by some. Therefore, to expect the Islamic Republic to hold a referendum on its own existence and to ask the Iranian people about its continuation is a wrong and logically baseless issue.”

The paper claims that “the main adverse consequence of the referendum is the loss of public trust... because it may lead to unjust justification of decisions.” Among other negative consequences is “an aggravation of social divide... if the result of the referendum is not accepted by some groups for various reasons.” It can even “pave the way for rioters to enter the armed phase against the political system,” the article claimed.

The article also claimed that a referendum can have a negative impact on the country’s foreign relations and justify further international pressures against the regime. Another negative impact can be on the economy because a referendum implies “the instability of the political situation.”

Almost all the points that the article enumerated prove that the government newspaper already knows what the result of such a referendum would be.

The daily added that if the system is acceptable enough that the people trust it for holding a referendum, it means the legitimacy of the political system is recognized.

However, almost all dissident figures have called on international bodies to oversee a possible referendum because the regime has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted with the people’s vote as was the case in the 2009 presidential election, which led to about two years of regular anti-government protests.

Former regime insider and current opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was a presidential candidate in 2009 and has been under house arrest since 2011, as well as former president Hassan Rouhani and several others have called for a plebiscite over key issues, such as a new constitution, or the nuclear program.

Former president Hassan Rouhani (right) and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

At a meeting with the senior officials of his government, former lawmakers, journalists and politicians on April 5, Rouhani reiterated that the answer to people’s demands could be holding referendums as envisaged by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic.

Article 59 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, which was ironically approved by a referendum after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, stipulates that in extremely important economic, political, social, and cultural matters, the functions of the legislature may be exercised through direct recourse to popular vote by holding a national referendum. It must be approved by two-thirds of the members of parliament according to the Constitution.

Over 400 Iranian civil and political activists also issued a statement mid-April saying the only "violence-free and democratic" solution for transition from the Islamic Republic is holding a democratic referendum. The signatories, including many former officials of the regime, noted that the most important lesson of the "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement is the necessity of "organized efforts to demand justice, as well as the abolition of intimidation, privilege and discrimination."

A few days later, Iran’s ruler, Khamenei, dismissed the possibility of a referendum, saying that people are not capable of making decisions. During a meeting with a cherrypicked number of students on Tuesday, Khamenei questioned the viability of a referendum. He said: “Is it possible to hold a referendum on various issues in the country? Where in the world do they do this? Do all the people who have to participate in the referendum have the ability to analyze that issue?”

A video clip of a Basij student “confronting” Khamenei during his speech went viral, perhaps indicating that even some loyalists are discontented with the regime’s performance.

The article claimed that “There must be a popular consensus about holding a referendum. It must be proven that at least over 50 percent of the people demand a referendum on a specific issue.”

It did not elaborate on how people can make the regime hear their demand if there is no chance for a plebiscite.

The daily claimed, in familiar rhetoric, that “the foreign media have construed from Khamenei’s words that the Supreme Leader is against the referendum, and worse, that he is against the opinion of the people and does not consider them worthy to express an opinion. However, it must be said that Ayatollah Khamenei's answer is not related to the principle and philosophy of the referendum; rather, it is a management reminder.”

Khamenei’s rhetoric of comparing his regime with other countries is misleading because he and his loyalists have severely restricted most freedoms and manipulated elections, jailed opponents and critics and jailed or killed protesters.

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