In the days before the election, Ayatollah Khamenei was concerned with voter turnout. The Supreme Leader urged people to vote in large numbers in order to “smack the face” of Iran’s enemies, a reference to Israel and the United States. He hoped that high numbers would suggest a validating and legitimizing outcome for his government, unlike the previous elections in 2009 that triggered massive anti-regime protests. This time Khamenei was hoping for a different outcome, and afterwards he declared victory and praised voter participation. But no independent reporting confirmed claims of 64 percent turnout that led the regime to claim an “epic victory.” To gain a different perspective on what transpired and its implications for Iran’s future leadership, we spoke with a prominent business consultant who was once a political prisoner of the regime.
Bijan Khajehpour, a prominent political economist, is managing partner of the consulting firm, Atieh International. Like many Iranians, Khajehpour left his country and studied abroad after Iran's Islamic revolution. He became a business consultant, working with foreign firms that wanted to do business in Iran. He was accused of plotting against the Iranian government in June of 2009 and was imprisoned for several months.