Today, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced the possibility of scrapping presidential elections in the “distant future” in favor of a parliamentary system which will be responsible for appointing its own president (much the same way pre-revolutionary Iran’s parliament elected its own prime minister). Here’s the video link to his speech.
When the demonstrators flooded the streets after the disputed ’09 presidential elections, I often wandered what the regime would do in next elections if it was successful in enforcing the ’09 election results on the populace (which I believed it would be able to do). In other words, the regime won in ’09 but it could very well be a temporary win since the next elections could be even more explosive. The protest movement was forced underground, but it is entirely possible that it could resurface in the next elections in 2013, even if there is no candidate like Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Elections in Iran are very different than in the US, especially the last elections in ’09. Where it’s typically for a US presidential candidate to speak at a crowded townhall meeting and for volunteers to go door-to-door, campaigners in ’09 turned Mousavi’s candidancy into a street movement, so much so, that IRGC commanders were accusing Mousavi of turning his candidacy into a velvet revolution. After the elections, the campaign morphed into a protest movement denouncing Ahmadinejad, the elections, and ultimately the entire system.
Thus, the thinking is that the protest movement was suppressed but it could quite possibly resurface and use the cover of a candidacy to re-ignite the movement. Seeing as though the powerful Guardian Council vets all candidates and a Mousavi-like candidacy would probably not be forthcoming in the near future, it wouldn’t matter since the protesters could just use any candidate as an excuse and as a political cover to hit the streets again.
The authorities, fearing this exact scenario in 2013, are now pre-empting by alluded to the idea of scrapping presidential elections altogether. I think they’re more than just contemplating the idea. I think the decision has already been made, but they are gradually introducing the idea to the public. In other words, we may not see another presidential election in Iran for a very long time.