After accompanying his former chief of staff to register for June’s presidential vote, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face punishment if charged with breaking electoral rules. On Sunday, the country’s electoral watchdog attracted worldwide media attention after pointing out Ahmadinejad may face a punishment of “74 lashes” for accompanying and appearing to endorse election entrant Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie. Iranian electoral law bans individuals from supporting candidates in an official capacity, while the use of state resources on behalf of or against any candidate is also banned. A conviction could bring a maximum punishment of six months in jail or 74 lashes, according to Iranian press reports. But analysts have brushed off “hyped” claims that Ahmadinejad would be penalized, and even if he were to be lashed or imprisoned, it may not be anytime soon.
“There will be no lashing; the news is hyped and ridiculous,” Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh, the director of the Centre for Arab & Iranian Studies in London, told Al Arabiya English on Monday.
“Yes, there would be a punishment if this were in a country that runs by law and order, with a strong judiciary that ensures laws and punishments are followed through.
“But in Iran, most people break the rules, from the Ayatollah to the man on the street,” Nourizadeh said.
The president had accompanied Mashaie on Saturday to register at the Interior Ministry. Photographs in the Iranian media showed them making peace signs.
Mashaie said the president had accompanied him on “a day off” from work; a claim Nourizadeh says would be Ahmadinejad’s “innocent response” if ever he were questioned as to why he went.
But a report by Iranian online news site, Khabar, on Monday stated the president had “introduced an individual [Mashaie] as an election candidate.”