Elections to pick Iran’s next president are still five months away, but that’s not too early for some warning shots by the country’s leadership. The message to anyone questioning the openness of the June vote: Keep quiet. A high-level campaign — including blunt remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — seeks to muzzle any open dissent over the process to select the successor for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and likely usher in a new president with a far tamer political persona. Public denunciations are nothing new against anyone straying from Iran’s official script. But the unusually early pre-emptive salvos appears to reflect worries that the election campaign could offer room for rising criticism and complaints over Iran’s myriad challenges, including an economy sputtering under Western-led sanctions, double-digit inflation and a national currency whose value has nosedived.
“Elections, by their nature, are an opportunity to make your voice heard,” said Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center based in Geneva. “Iran’s leaders understand this very well and are not likely to take any chances.”
And Iranian authorities hold nearly all the cards. Their main goal this time is to avoid any repeat of 2009, when reform-leaning candidates were allowed on the ballot and led an unprecedented street revolt after Ahmadinejad’s re-election to his second, and final, term amid claims of vote rigging.
The protest leaders are now under house arrest and their opposition Green Movement has been systematically dismantled through crackdowns and intimidation. The next group of presidential hopefuls — who must be cleared by Iran’s ruling clerics — is almost certain to have no wildcards.
Instead, the emphasis is likely to be on easing the domestic political friction as Iran attempts the strategic version of a win-win: Finding ways to ride out sanctions, while negotiating a deal with the U.S. and allies that would allow Tehran to keep some levels of uranium enrichment, the centerpiece of its nuclear program.
Full Article: Iran’s Election Tip to Critics: Keep Quiet – ABC News.