There’s a scene in Sacha Baron Cohen’s film “The Dictator” in which the despotic protagonist is about to take part in a running race. He fires his pistol in the air to start the event, and then shoots all the other runners. A clip of this has been doing the rounds on the few remaining Iranian social media platforms still available, acting as a metaphor for this week’s presidential election.
About 600 candidates applied to stand, all but seven were told to sit down and five of the seven then dropped out. Sunni Muslims, Baha’is, Christians, and Jews didn’t even bother to fill in the forms as the president must be a Shia Muslim. The Guardian Council, which vets candidates and is controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, always weeds out anyone insufficiently wedded to the basic tenets of the 1979 revolution but this year excelled itself by disqualifying anyone under 40 or over 70. This, along with other impediments, conveniently excluded most relative moderates as well as conservatives such as former Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who might get in the way of the favoured candidate Ebrahim Raisi.