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Source: RFE/RL

Mar 7, 2024

Jailed Politician Tajzadeh Calls Out Khamenei After 'Historic Failure' Of Iranian Elections

Prominent Iranian reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh, who is currently imprisoned at Tehran's notorious Evin prison, has sharply criticized recent elections in Iran, calling them a "historic failure" for the country's ruling regime.

In a letter published on his Telegram channel on March 5, Tajzadeh squarely places the blame for this failure on the shoulders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic and boldly challenges his domestic and international policies, denouncing them for their contribution to the nation's crises.

The March 1 elections for a new parliament, or Majlis, and a new Assembly of Experts, which elects Iran's supreme leader, were the first since the deadly nationwide protests that erupted following the September 2022 death while in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She was detained for an alleged Islamic dress-code violation.

Tajzadeh's criticism focuses on the dismal voter turnout -- a historic low of 41 percent -- and the negligible percentage of votes garnered by elected officials. He accused Khamenei of failing to recognize and address the widespread dissatisfaction among Iranian citizens despite promoting a slogan of "maximum participation."

According to Tajzadeh, Khamenei's inaction has exacerbated the disconnect between the government and its citizens, leaving many Iranians despondent and without hope for meaningful change.Tajzadeh also called out authorities for a lack of transparency in reporting detailed election results, such as the number of spoiled ballots, particularly in critical regions like Tehran, which has only added to the public's mistrust and skepticism of the leadership.

Tajzadeh, who served as deputy interior minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami, said declining participation in elections since 2019 shows Khamenei has failed to learn from the numbers and instead persists with policies that have led to "widespread poverty, pervasive corruption, and increasing anger and desperation among the people."

Amid Iran's economic and social turmoil, Tajzadeh argues that the nation's leadership must acknowledge its mistakes, prioritize civil and political freedoms, and focus on development over "ambition and adventurism."

He also questioned the legitimacy and effectiveness of the Assembly of Experts, suggesting that genuine reform is needed to align the institution with the people's will.

Tajzadeh was first arrested in 2009 during mass protests disputing the reelection of then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who ran against opposition reformist candidates Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hossein Musavi.In 2010, Tajzadeh was convicted of harming national security and propaganda against the state.

He was released in 2016 after serving most of his seven-year sentence.After his release, Tajzadeh often called on authorities to free Karrubi and Musavi, who have been under house arrest for more than a decade.

In October 2022, a branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Tajzadeh to the current five-year term he is serving. Tajzadeh declined to speak in court during the hearing after a request he made to talk one-on-one with his lawyer was rejected.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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