In the Western countries elections are a routine part of life. Decisions from small to large, filling potholes to creating a monumental social program such as health care and even wars are the result of some form of electoral process, local elections, broader province or state elections and finally the national elections. Open debates are part of this process and ideas can be expressed without fear of arrest and imprisonment. The police, military and courts cannot prevent you from expressing your opinion or fielding your candidates. Open debates, expression of opinions continue between elections and one's ability to organize around ideas are protected.
This is the reason that a boycott of an election as an active political choice almost never comes into the picture or at least never finds much expression. If someone does not participate, first and foremost it is a personal choice. That choice could have social and economic reasons but almost never a political one.
In the West different interest groups or classes can participate and try to advance their concerns. In this context Marxists have always had a difficult time to make a case for their "dictatorship of proletariat", as the single class entitled to power. As an amelioration of their dilemma, Marxists politics found different expressions from supporting candidates of broader interest groups such as the Labor Party in Britain or the Democratic Party in the U.S. to fielding their own small sectarian groups' candidates. Marxists exaggerate the influence of other interest groups as a cover for their pathetic performance but they cannot claim disenfranchisement in the elections.
With the demise of the Soviet Union the verdict has been clear. The idea of the "dictatorship of proletariat" received a resounding defeat. At the same time the notion of "proletariat" as a class, at least politically, has been pushed so far out of perspective that the whole thing seems to be a mirage fabricated by Marx and the Marxists. The mirage is broader, further investigation will prove that the Marxist ideology is baseless at all levels, and it is not limited to the Russian experience of the last century. But that is another discussion.
Marxists and the leftists political influence in the events leading to the 1979 uprising in Iran was substantial. Groups espousing those ideas competed with each other to disassociate themselves from the Western democracies. This political outlook, distrust of the West, has deep roots in resistance to change and progress in Iran. It was this outlook that helped the victory of the reactionary forces in Iran. Now many of the same leftists are testing their politics with a new twist.
The existing regime in Iran is reactionary to the core led by a religious oligarchy. Disenfranchisement is almost universal: Real political parties do not exist. Open debate is non-existent. Journalists and writers are either forced to leave the country or are imprisoned and the ones left behind cannot say much contrary to the approved ideology. The handpicked candidates of the establishment, eight in this election, are all dedicated to the maintenance of the regime. The ruling religious oligarchy is based on a religious hierarchy which in turn receives its members from an expanding network of religious schools, mosques, prolific holy sites (emamzadeh) with their hands in the state coffer sucking national resources.
If there ever was a class rule, you hardly can find a clearer example of it. If there ever was a clearer case for a boycott of an election you hardly will find a better one. Despite all the obstacles that were thrown in by the "reformists", many Iranians by instinct did not vote. There was a successful boycott and the numbers were by all estimates on par with what Rouhani, the winner, has received. In the highly charged political atmosphere of Iran an abstention is a political statement. That is why Khamenei was concerned about it. This unorganized boycott, the votes that the regime did not receive is not merely a sum total of personal choices but a political statement. It is a vote against the regime and that is significant.
Many enthusiasts of this election think that by appeasing to the ruling oligarchy one can find the road to progress. They think there is an independent road to democracy and progress that goes through collaboration with this religious oligarchy. They think democracy is a set of mechanical gyrations that the Iranian people need practice in. One of the recommended motions by the "reformists" has been a vote for Rouhani. Maybe it is a push up to strengthen our democratic muscles. These "reformists", many of them from the leftists ranks, yet try to ignore the real history of the struggle for democracy and progress. They yet make arguments for independence from the West, the real source of democracy.