Friday’s election in Iran was surprising on multiple fronts. Perceived reformer Hassan Rouhani won a majority of the vote in the first round, clinching the presidency to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has held that position since 2005. Iranians took to the streets in celebration during the weekend to recognize not only Rouhani’s unlikely victory with 50.7 percent of the vote, but also the process itself which, unlike 2009, did not appear to be rigged by the country’s ruling elites. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely felt pressure to give way to the majority rule due to the country’s economy, crippled by international sanctions, and the series of uprisings throughout the region. Protests that began in the Arab Spring in late 2010 continue to roil in countries such as neighboring Syria and Turkey.
Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying the votes the nation’s presidential election, with a surge of interest in the contest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate in the field. But with only a fraction of the vote counted, it was uncertain whether any single contestant would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week. With long lines at the polls Friday, voting hours were extended by five hours in parts of Tehran and four hours in the rest of the country. Turnout reached 75 percent, by official count, as disaffected members of the Green Movement, which was crushed in the uprising that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, dropped a threatened boycott and appeared to coalesce behind a cleric, Hassan Rowhani, and the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf. Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, said Saturday morning on state television that preliminary results showed Mr. Rowhani with a strong lead, followed by Mr. Ghalibaf. Mr. Najjar did not say when the final result would be available. Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters and as of late Saturday morning nearly eight million votes had been counted.
The 12-man Guardian Council, largely under the sway of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had already barred all but eight of the 686 people who registered as candidates, including pragmatic ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. That left four hardliners, separated only by small differences on issues such as Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West, facing a lone independent outsider and two relative moderates who may be able to generate popular support. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a close adviser to Khamenei related to him by marriage, had been one of three so-called “Principlist” conservative candidates alongside Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati before announcing on Monday he was dropping out.
The last time Iran had a presidential vote, millions took to the streets calling foul when the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was declared the winner. Four years on, the Islamic Republic has not yet fully recovered from the ensuing political heart-attack. After a year of demonstrations and repression, the battle for Iran’s future was won by Iran’s conservative hardliners loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Their reformist rivals were sidelined: Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the thwarted reformists’ favourite who claimed to have won the 2009 election, remains under house arrest, along with a fellow candidate, Mehdi Karroubi. Politics, even within the confines of the Islamic state, is as polarised as ever. Now the reformists are pondering how to pick themselves up for another fight: the first round of the coming presidential poll, on June 14th. Eight candidates are running, following a purge of hundreds of other aspirants by the Guardian Council, a panel of clerics and lawyers, half of them appointed by Mr Khamenei. The council controversially barred a former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whom reformers would probably have backed, from running. Two reform-minded candidates remain: Hassan Rohani and Muhammad Reza Aref, both of whom stayed silent during the tumult after the 2009 poll. The reformists are mulling over whether to throw in their lot with one of them.
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.
The main function of elections in democracies is to enable the exercise of the people’s authority over the power of the state by establishing a government to implement policies which the public has voted for. Iran’s government, however, is bound by a constitution which states that a “supreme leader” has ultimate power over all branches of state and government. Elections of such a government, in effect, legitimize a regime which deprives people of their right to determine the state in which they live. In fact, what appears to be the “election” in Iran is only the shell of a political form; a remnant of the early years of the revolution and the first draft of the country’s constitution in which the sole source of legitimacy for any government was to be the people’s vote. But due to a power struggle between democratic and dictatorial interests, the constitution was rewritten to enshrine two competing sources of legitimacy: the people’s vote and the Velayat-e Faqih (the rule of the jurist or supreme leader). At the time, the position of supreme leader was filled by the undisputed leadership of Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini. Eventually, this constant tension between the two sources of legitimacy led Khomeini, at the end of his life, to tilt the balance of power further towards the supreme leader, thereby increasing his role in the constitution from a mainly observatory status to one of absolute power. The preservation of the regime became an ultimate and absolute duty, thus justifying virtually any act towards this end.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has denounced as unjust the disqualification of his top aide from next month’s presidential election and says he plans to appeal to Iran’s supreme ruler. Ahmadinejad spoke a day after the Guardian Council, which vets candidates, barred the out-going president’s confidant, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, from the June 14 poll along with former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the nation’s most illustrious political figures. Tuesday’s decisions enraged the pair’s many supporters and threatened to deflate turnout. Mashaei was “unjustly treated,” the president told reporters, according to the conservative Fars News Agency. “I have presented … Mashaei as a righteous and religious person who could be useful for the country.”
Iran: After being banned from election, Iran’s Rafsanjani blasts ruling clerics, report says | Associated Press
Banned from upcoming elections, Iran’s former president has leveled harsh criticism at the Islamic Republic’s clerical rulers, saying they are doing a poor job running the country, an Iranian pro-reform website reported late on Wednesday. The remarks by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani come days after a constitutional watchdog disqualified him from running in the June 14 presidential election. The wording was particularly strong for Rafsanjani, considered a centrist who generally defers to the supremacy of the ruling clerics. He had previously lashed out at authorities after a crackdown on protests following the disputed 2009 elections. Because of his stance then, Rafsanjani’s 2013 candidacy had revitalized reformist hopes. Rafsanjani has not made any direct public statements since his Tuesday disqualification. The quote was not carried on his official website, and the report could not independently verified.
Iran’s electoral watchdog has barred moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from standing in a June 14 presidential election, the interior ministry said on Tuesday. Eight candidates won approval to stand — five conservatives close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as two moderate conservatives and a reformist, according to AFP. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close but controversial aide to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was also omitted from the list, AFP reported. No explanation was given for the disqualifications. Earlier today, Iranian news websites boosted speculation Tuesday that election overseers have barred two prominent but divisive figures from next month’s presidential ballot, in a move that would eliminate a threat to the country’s hard-liners, AP said.
Iran’s election overseers removed potential wild-card candidates from the presidential race Tuesday, blocking a top aide of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a former president who revived hopes of reformers. Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favor with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles. It also pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran’s leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Nearly four years have passed since the birth of Iran’s green movement. Arising from the massive street protests against the official results of the 2009 presidential election, it endured brutal repression and finally receded in the face of arrests, beatings, and torture. Three of its most prominent figures – Mir-Hossein Mousavi, his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi – have been under house arrest for more than two years. Other movement leaders are in prison or exile. According to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iranian authorities are holding at least 40 journalists in prison as the June presidential election approaches, the second-highest total in the world. But what has become of others in the movement’s middle ranks inside the country, the political activists and journalists who stayed back?
Some 100 legislators are demanding a ban on two top independent candidates including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from Iran’s June presidential election in what may be a further move to thwart any brewing challenge to the clerical supreme leader. The petition by parliamentarians to Iran’s Guardian Council emerged three days after the electoral watchdog said outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may face charges for accompanying former aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, the other high-profile independent, to register on Saturday for the vote. That warning raised speculation that the council would bar Mashaie. The parliamentarians – conservative hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – appeared to follow up by urging the watchdog to disqualify both independents.
Like many Iranians, 31-year-old Amir is pondering what to do on June 14, when Iran chooses a new president. He has two options — to vote or not to vote — and neither is good, he says. Voting could lend legitimacy to the Iranian establishment in the international arena and help it erase the embarrassment caused by Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s contentious reelection in 2009. More than 70 people were killed and chaos ensued after mass protests erupted following that election, and the international community widely criticized Tehran’s response.
In totalitarian dictatorships diversity of opinion doesn’t exist. And so is the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran where all secular organizations and parties were eliminated at the beginning of the Islamic revolution of 1979. Nevertheless, in keeping up appearances, presidential elections are to be held in that country on June 14th. There is an ‘inter-Islamist’ discussion about which Islamist candidate could serve the ruling leader Ali Khamenei in the best way. And that’s the gist of it; the candidates will not deviate from the ruling Islamic doctrine.
Election rhetoric in Iran has increased since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial statements earlier in the week, in which he threatened to reveal sensitive information about his political enemies and taunted them that they are “nobody” to confront him. Immediately after the statements, several figures in Iran responded. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of the armed forces, said that what the president did “was unacceptable, and it is disturbing public order.” He added that “we hope the president puts an end to this type of discourse.” Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the Kayhan newspaper, which is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also responded to the president’s statements. He wrote to the president, “There could be two reasons why you still haven’t revealed anything. Either you’re bluffing … or you’re worried they’ll reveal something about you. Could there be any other reason?”
Iran’s presidential campaign is well under way. The unprecedented public attack by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, in which Ahmadinejad accused Larijani of trying to control Iran through a family-run mafia, attests to a deep divide within the Iranian regime. But unlike in most real democracies, the likely contenders for the presidency are not trying to woo reluctant voters with snazzy TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives. Indeed, many regime officials would prefer that many Iranians—especially liberal urbanites—not vote at all. The June election will not be about mobilizing the Iranian public. It is instead the culmination of a years-long evolution in Iranian politics: the transformation of the Islamic Republic from a mildly representative theocracy into a Revolutionary Guards-controlled kleptocracy. Ultimately, the election is meant to fulfill Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ambition of wielding absolute authority. But far from strengthening his rule, the election could actually erode the credibility and legitimacy of a fading regime. Elections in Iran have never been a truly democratic affair. Sure, Iranians have had the opportunity to vote for president and parliament every four years. But the elections have always been held within the accepted “framework”of the Islamic Republic. Only candidates who adhere to the Islamic theocracy are allowed to run.
Iran will stage its annual show of solidarity and defiance Sunday, a festive day of scripted rallies and fiery oratory marking the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and denouncing “satanic” Washington and its allies. But with a pivotal presidential election approaching in June, the veneer of unity among Iran’s diverse political blocs has been wearing thin as average Iranians struggle to cope with a withering, sanctions-driven economic crisis. Even before official candidates have emerged, a nasty spate of preelection infighting has erupted, unveiling an unedifying display of name-calling and mudslinging. Last week, Iranians witnessed the stunning public spectacle of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going before the parliament to play an apparently secretly taped video clip that, he alleged, exposed corrupt dealings by the powerful family of parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani — the president’s bitter rival and a possible candidate to succeed him.
Iran: Make no mistake: This time Ali Khamenei is determined to put one of his own in charge | The Economist
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is sure that the approaching election to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose second term ends in June, will be free and fair. So sure, in fact, that he has forbidden discussion of it. This was the import of a speech he gave last month in the holy city of Qom. In the way of such speeches, it had the opposite effect to the one he wanted. There had been grumbles before Mr Khamenei’s intervention, mostly recalling the country’s last presidential poll, in 2009, which returned Mr Ahmadinejad in dubious circumstances at the expense of his reformist rivals. The supreme leader’s words were uttered on the same day that one of his clerical representatives, Ali Saeedi, bluntly called on the Revolutionary Guard to “engineer” the elections. The result, even in an increasingly authoritarian Iran, was uproar.
A heated debate about who will be allowed to run in Iran’s presidential election has erupted five months before the vote, stoking concerns about a repeat of the protests that followed the contested 2009 poll. At the heart of the controversy is whether the vote will be what critics of Iran’s electoral system call “free” — that is, cast with a ballot that includes candidates from all of Iran’s various political factions and not just principlists, the conservatives who are loyal to the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment that rules Iran. The loudest calls for an open field of participants are coming from two former presidents and the outgoing one, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
One of Iran’s most senior clerics has declared that this year’s presidential election should be scrapped, with a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad handpicked by MPs rather than the people. With debate raging in Tehran over whether elections are free and fair, Grand Ayatollah Jabar Sobhani said June’s vote should be ditched to preserve national unity. The comments, by one of Iran’s highest religious authorities, suggest the regime is still nervous about retaining control of the election campaign and the result. The government was embarrassed by the nationwide protests that marred the 2009 poll, prompting a savage crackdown. “Although the president should be chosen by the people, it would be better if MPs chose him under the current circumstances . . . We must keep the unity of the word and national unity,” Ayatollah Sobhani said.
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.
Six months ahead of a vote that will end to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contentious presidency, talk of elections has already prompted top-level controversies in Tehran. This week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, asked officials not to make statements insinuating that previous elections were not free. The 73-year-old was speaking to a group of devout crowds from the holy city of Qom. In his speech, Khamenei criticised senior politicians who have indirectly cast doubt on the fairness of Iran’s electoral record.
Iran’s most powerful leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the Iranian public on Tuesday against helping Tehran’s enemies by criticising the forthcoming presidential election. Iranians go to the polls in June to elect a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran’s leadership is keen to avoid a repeat of the widespread protests that followed the last presidential vote in 2009. Khamenei’s comments appear to be a response to a debate inside Iran about whether reformist candidates – those with a more moderate stance on issues such as social policy and greater political freedoms – should be allowed to run.
A news agency reports Iran’s president is urging parliament to abandon possible revisions in laws governing presidential elections. The call appears part of widening political battles before June’s election to pick Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor. Ahmadinejad has faced attacks from powerful rivals since defying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year over a key Cabinet post.
There are months to go before Iranians choose a new president, but the Islamic regime already appears to be preparing the ground for a preferred candidate. A controversial election-reform bill working its way through parliament contains measures that could prevent undesirables from running while granting the clerical establishment greater control over the election’s outcome in June 2013. The bill, which passed in its first reading on December 2, would tighten an already strict vetting process for potential candidates by adding prerequisites for age, experience, and loyalty to the establishment.
There are “serious concerns” about how the Iranian government vetted the candidates for recent parliamentary elections, a U.N. rights official said. Supporters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gained the upper hand in March 4 parliamentary elections, the first election since the divisive 2009 presidential contest. Khamenei had said Iran would be governed better by a parliamentary system.
Editorials: Iran’s Parliamentary Vote: The Beginning of the End of Ahmadinejad | Angie Ahmadi/Huffington Post
Last Friday, Iran held its first elections since the controversial 2009 presidential contest, after which millions of voters poured into streets of Tehran. Unrest following the announced re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad culminated in mass detention, torture and the death of many protesters. It also led to the near-elimination of pro-reform political forces in the Islamic Republic. For this very reason, the parliamentary vote last week should be viewed as an unrepresentative sham — nothing more than a selection process amongst the ruling conservative elite. As the dispute between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad runs deeper, this election is widely interpreted as a battle between these two political heavyweights. With the ballot boxes now counted, the outcome categorically declares Khamenei as the winner — as was broadly anticipated. But placing Iran’s future policy trajectory in its proper context requires caution against reaching hasty conclusions. The results clearly show that candidates openly associated with Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie failed to enter the parliament. However, the Islamic Revolution Durability Front, backed by ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and fairly close to Ahmadinejad, performed relatively well, thereby lessening the possibility of a solid opposition to the president emerging in the new parliament.
Conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared on course Saturday to gain firm control of parliament after elections that could embolden Iran’s nuclear defiance and give the ruling clerics a clear path to ensure a loyalist succeeds Ahmadinejad next year. Although Iran’s 290-seat parliament has limited sway over key affairs _ including military and nuclear policies _ the elections highlight the political narratives inside the country since Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in 2009 and sets the possible tone for his final 18 months in office. Reformists were virtually absent from the ballot, showing the crushing force of crackdowns on the opposition. Instead, Friday’s elections became a referendum on Ahmadinejad’s political stature after he tried to challenge the near-total authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to decide critical government policies such as intelligence and foreign affairs.
Imagine a game in which you fix the rules, choose the players, hold a veto over the results and, yet, go on to cheat. This is what happened last Friday with the ninth set of legislative elections in the Islamic Republic in Iran. As always, the regime decided who was allowed to stand and who was not. Then, the task of running the exercise was given to the Ministry of the Interior rather than an independent election commission as is the norm all over the world. No need to say, the results could be changed or canceled by the Council of the Custodians, the mullah-dominated organ of the regime. So, with such a configuration, why cheat?
Iran will hold run-off elections for 65 parliamentary seats, state media said on Monday, after loyalists to the paramount clerical leader won a dominating majority at the expense of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The widespread defeat of Ahmadinejad’s allies in the 290-seat assembly is expected to reduce the president to a lame duck for the rest of his second and final term, and increase Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s influence in the country’s 2013 presidential election. Khamenei swiftly endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009, rejecting opposition allegations of widespread fraud that led to eight months of unrest, crushed bloodily by security forces. But a rift opened between the two leaders after – critics of Ahmadinejad said – the president tried to undermine the leading political role of clergy in the Islamic Republic.