Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (5 October): The Economy, Arrests, and Ahmadinejad v. Parliament

1729 GMT: Nuclear Watch (Better Late than Never). The head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, said today, "The start-up process of the Bushehr power plant is progressing well and we hope to see it connected to the national electricity grid by late December, or a few weeks earlier." 

The Bushehr plant was supposed to be operational this month but Iranian official said last week that the launch would be delayed. Salehi said this was because of a "small leak" in a pool near the plant after stories circulated that Bushehr might have been hindered by the Stuxnet computer worm.

1725 GMT: Mousavi Watch. In his latest interview on Kalemeh, Mir Hossein Mousavi has declared that President Ahmadinejad's foreign policies are destructive and his performance should be judged in a referendum.

1720 GMT: Currency Watch. Iranian Labor News Agency reports that lines in front of governmental currency exchange shops are 10 meters long. Dollars are being traded at open rates, as opposed to the government's official rates, elsewhere.

1620 GMT: Labour Front. Workers of the Pars Wagon Company have protested in front of the Parliament, saying they have not been paid for two years.

1615 GMT: Economy Watch. Member of Parliament Mehdi Sanaei has declared that Iran's 4th Budget Plan (2005-2010) has ended and the country is now proceeding without a plan.

Sanaei also said implementation of proposed subsidy cuts was unclear.

Disputes between the President and Parliament have prevented implementation of the 5th Budget Plan for 2010-2015.

Khabar Online has more on the bargaining over the 5th Plan.

1610 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Brazilian oil company Petronas has refused to withdraw from Iran despite international sanctions.

Last week, the US State Department announced that four of the top five European companies --- Royal Dutch Shell, France's Total, Italy's ENI, and Norway's Statoil --- had agreed to stop investing in Iran.

1605 GMT: The Bazaar Strikes. Claimed footage of a gold market strike today in Ardebil in South Azerbaijan:

1225 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, who blogs as Babak Khorramdin, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

1145 GMT: Currency Watch. In his appearance today in northern Iran, President Ahmadinejad spoke about his plans for subsidy cuts and declared, "If the demand for currency was 50 times what it is today, there are enough reserves to run the country for years."

Khabar Online is not convinced: the website says there is still instability in the currency markets.

0930 GMT: Responding to Ahmadinejad. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, in the context of the President's recent declarations about US power, 9-11, and "burying" of opponents, has said that insulting foreigners has negative effects. Instead, a speaker should "present logical reasons" for his/her assertions.

So let's have a look at Ahmadinejad's latest reasoning, in a speech this morning in northern Iran:

They [the West] tried to implement their programs through the Israeli regime but they failed. Then they came to the conclusion that they need to occupy our region with hundreds of thousands of military troops to have access to the region's oil in an effort to save their troubled economy.

0820 GMT: Power Surge. Deutsche Welle reports that six power and petrochemical plants are being transferred to the control of the Iranian military.

Last month, Tehran announced that six petrochemical factories were going to suspend export production and concentrate on gasoline for the domestic market.

0815 GMT: Housing Boom. Well, here's one way to stimulate the economy....

Mehr reports that 35,000 residential units will be built for members of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia.

0655 GMT: Silencing the Clerics. William Yong of The New York Times summarises the filtering of the websites of three leading Iranian clerics, Ayatollahs Sane'i, Bayat Zanjani, and Dastgheib.

Yong writes:

While there was no official announcement that the sites had been blocked, Internet users who attempted to access them on Monday were automatically redirected to a standard Iranian government filtering page which offers links to government-authorized web sites such as marriage advice sites, state-run news services and the official web site of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In response, an announcement on the top page of Grand Ayatollah Sanei’s web site, which can only be accessed in Iran with the aid of illegal anti-filtering software, stated that the offices of the Grand Ayatollah were still be open to serve his followers in the fields of “worship, politics and cultural resistance against oppression.”

“Let it not go unsaid that freedom of expression is emphasized under Islam,” the statement reads.

0615 GMT: Tuesday starts with ongoing stories. Arash Bahmani surveys economic tensions and questions over the Iranian currency, while Fereshteh Ghazi follows up on the weekend arrest of seven leading members of the Freedom Movement of Iran, speaking to their families. The son of FMI's 79-year-old leader Ebrahim Yazdi, now in a Tehran prison, says, “This is the ultimate cruelty, and the government is not even ashamed to say that it has arrested people for not having a permit [for Friday Prayers]."

But there may be one new development. Kalemeh, the website linked to Mir Hossein Mousavi, is casting doubt on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest political offensive. It says that 200 of Iran's 290 members of Parliament did not show up for the President's Sunday meeting with legislators.

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