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.
Hassan Rouhani has hailed his election as Iran’s president as a “victory of moderation over extremism”. The reformist-backed cleric won just over 50% of the vote and so avoided the need for a run-off. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran when the result was announced, shouting pro-reform slogans. The US expressed concern at a “lack of transparency” and “censorship” but praised the Iranian people and said it was ready to work with Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged continued international pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear programme. “The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure on Iran for it to stop its nuclear programme,” Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to a statement released by his office.
In the end, Iran’s presidential election may be defined by who doesn’t vote. Arguments over whether to boycott Friday’s ballot still boiled over at coffee shops, kitchen tables and on social media among many liberal-leaning Iranians on the eve of the voting. The choice, once easy for many who turned their back in anger after years of crackdowns, has been suddenly complicated by an unexpected chance to perhaps wage a bit of payback against Iran’s rulers. The rising fortunes of the lone relative moderate left in the race, former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani, has brought a dilemma for many Iranians who faced down security forces four years ago: Stay away from the polls in a silent protest or jump back into the mix in a system they claim has been disgraced by vote rigging. Which way the scales tip could set the direction of the election and the fate for Rowhani, a cleric who is many degrees of mildness removed from being an opposition leader. But he is still the only fallback option for moderates in an election that once seemed preordained for a pro-establishment loyalist.
Despite four years of non-stop pressure, arrests and intimidation, Iran’s dissidents still find ways to show their resilience. Protest messages still ricochet around social media despite Iran’s cyber cops’ attempts to control the Web. Angry graffiti pops up and then quickly painted over by authorities. Mourners at the funeral of a dissident cleric flashed V-for-victory gestures and chanted against the state. But just a look at the sidewalks around Tehran’s Mellat Park shows how far Iran’s opposition has fallen as the country prepares for Friday’s presidential election.
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.
Authorities in Iran have imposed a six-month ban on a newspaper linked to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country’s president, as tensions rise in the run-up to next week’s presidential election. The prohibition on Iran, a state-owned newspaper under the administration of Mr Ahmadinejad’s government, was imposed for “false reporting”, according to local news agencies, although they did not elaborate. The ban is the latest sign of Mr Ahmadinejad’s increasing marginalisation within Iran’s theocratic system.
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.