For many living in Iran during the current election cycle, the reality is that whoever wins, the situation within the country is unlikely to change, but will be more of the same. According to the election regulations in Iran, all candidates must prove their loyalty in words and dead to the absolute rule of the Velayat-Faqih (supreme religious rule). Members of the Guardian Council, which is an unelected body that vets the candidates are appointed directly and indirectly by the Supreme Leader. Without the approval of Khamenei, no one can be a candidate.
When one examines the background of the candidates, all of them have been officials of the regime for many years. Even the two main contenders, Rouhani and Raisi, have held senior posts since the inception of the regime back in 1979.
What is currently happening in the election cycle is a power struggle between the factions of the regime. This power struggle has nothing to do with the Iranian people, but is an internal feud. Western nations have failed to appreciate the more fundamental conflict, which is between the Iranian people and the oppressive regime.
It has to be noted that the factions of the regime are not two different schools of thought, but the infighting within the regime is a reflection of its failure to address the most basic needs of the people, growing popular discontent and fearing that the current situation might lead to a general uprising. The differences in thought are about how the regime should move forward to survive.
Under Rouhani, the strategy is to maintain the domestic repression, continue the nuclear and missile program in a less provocative manner, engaging with the West without changing the fundamental principles of the regime to gain Western support to overcome the deadly crisis the regime is facing.
Under Raisi, the strategy seems to be avoiding any deviation, even cosmetically, from previous policies would accelerate the collapse of the entire regime. Their argument is that the gap between the people and the regime is so wide at this point that cosmetic reform would lead to a mass uprising.
However, both factions are focused on domestic repression, support for terrorism and meddling in the region, and the missile and nuclear weapons programs, but the difference can be found in how they present their views on those issues.
Two of the six approved candidates have already dropped out, further showcasing the carefully crafted scenes that are leading to the approved outcome approved by Khamenei. The reality is that this regime is incapable of reform or change of behavior. Failing to recognize that is what will lead to further violence and the spread of extremism within the region and on a global scale. Ultimately, the Iranian people are suffering the repression of the regime and paying the highest price.