Yesterday, on June 4th, Iranian Association at the University of Toronto held a lecture on the upcoming presidential election by Mr. Mousavi Khoeini, the former reformist member of Iran's 6th parliament. It was very ironic that the speaker who had come from Iran urged the audience to boycott the election, whereas many of the Iranians who live in Canada argued against him by saying that participation in the election is the best way among all the possible ways.
Mr Mousavi's argument, like most of the others who support the boycott strategy, was that people's participation would only strengthen the legitimacy of the current regime. The president cannot do much in the power structure of Iran and a reformist president such as Dr. Moeen would only increase the tensions among different parts of the power. This would finally end up the country with a non-efficient government. However if people boycott the election, the coservative leadership loses its legitimacy and will give up to the people's will.
In my opinion, Mr. Mousavi fails to explain how exactly the regime will accept the people's demand after the low turn-out in the election. There seems to be an uncertain gap between these two events and boycott supporters do not have any plan for this time period.
When Mr. Mousavi was asked whether he is still happy about voting for Khatami twice, he said yes by reminding people how everything has improved since then. He then faced a question from the audience how someone can justify voting for Khatami but wants not to vote this time. The power structure is now the same as eight years ago. If voting strengthens the legitimacy of the regime this time, it had done the exact same thing four and eight years ago. If one can justify voting for Khatami by mentioning the positive changes over these years, he should be able to justify voting for Dr. Moeen for the same reasons.
There was a political activist among the audience who talked about his experiences. He said that since many years ago, he had boycotted the election because he didn't want to give legitimacy to the regime. He said that however nothing much had happened over those years till people actually participated and voted for Khatami and that was the start of real changes in the country. He now wonders how boycott strategy would do any good.
Those who boycott the election believe that Iran's problem cannot be solved unless the constitution changes for a more democratic structure. Even if this is true, the question is how not voting will make changing the constitution easier? Is the idea some kind of velvet revolution? Does a velvet revolution work in a middle eastern country with significant oil resources? This probably needs another post.