With 10 days until Iran’s presidential election, voters have been able watch the candidates in debate, but many remain unenthused, believing the result will depend not on those on the platform but on powerful men in the background. The Revolutionary Guards, a military force over 100,000 strong which also controls swathes of Iran’s economy, is widely assumed to have fixed the vote last time around, silenced those who protested and to be preparing to anoint a favored candidate this year, having already narrowed down the field. The successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who steps down after a second term, will remain subordinate to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And many see the hand of the Guards, the muscle of the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers, in steering victory toward one of several conservative loyalists -while stifling the kind of protests that followed the 2009 vote.
While many of the 75 million Iranians fret about an economy laboring under international sanctions intended to disrupt Tehran’s nuclear program, Guards commanders have made clear in public statements that they will only accept a winner who is both deeply loyal to Khamenei and committed to public order.
“The Revolutionary Guards are going to essentially be the most important force in shaping the outcome of the elections,” said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University. If none of the eight candidates wins a majority a week on Friday, the top two will contest a run-off.
But opposition activists, and even some establishment figures, accuse the Guards – originally committed Islamists entrusted with “protecting the revolution” when the Shah fell in 1979 – of already crossing a grey line into overtly political action, notably by intimidating the Guardian Council of jurists and clerics who vet candidates into barring candidates whom the Guards saw as potentially troublesome to their own interests.
Full Article: Iran Guards wield electoral power behind scenes | Reuters.