FOUR YEARS ago, voting in Iran almost triggered regime change. Millions protested President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s apparently fraudulent reelection over a moderately reformist opponent. The movement quickly grew into a wider challenge to the theocracy that has ruled Iran since 1979. Using arrests and violence, the country’s unelected de facto ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, eventually crushed the so-called Green Revolution — and drew the lesson that even a tiny bit of genuine political competition is too much.
Or so it appears from his regime’s behavior since 2009, which has included the vilification of even such erstwhile allies as Mr. Ahmadinejad for their policy deviations — as well as the targeting of actual dissidents for harassment, arrest and, as a United Nations human rights rapporteur put it in a March report, “torture . . . on a geographically widespread and systemic . . . basis.”
The regime’s drive for total control culminated in last week’s announcement by the Khamenei-controlled Guardian Council barring two potentially serious but hardly radical candidates, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mr. Ahmadinejad’s aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from running in the June 14 presidential election. (The current president is limited to two terms.) What’s left is a list of eight candidates notable mainly for their fealty to Mr. Khamenei.