Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (16 November): Non-Appearances

A Green Movement poster opposing any military attack on Iran

See also Iran Analysis: Ahmadinejad --- A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes?
The Latest from Iran (15 November): After the Explosion

2100 GMT: The Explosion. Digarban goes back into the question of the death toll of Saturday's blast at the Revolutionary Guards base and --- contrary to the latest claim of the Guards of 17 deaths --- comes up with the names of 36 people who were killed.

The list is taken from accounts in IRNA, Fars, and Mehr.

2050 GMT: CrimeStoppers. MP Hosein Harati has declared that the Supreme Leader is the leader of the movement preventing crime in Iran.

If so, Ayatollah Khamenei has gone a big task --- Harati said that, in a country of 75 million people, there are 10 million criminal files.

1700 GMT: Smoke Watch. Eleven days ago, the Government banned hookahs --- water pipes --- in teahouses. Today it lifted the prohibition.

1530 GMT: Foreign Affairs Watch (Syrian Front). The Iranian Embassy in Damascus has denied reports of talks with the Syrian opposition, saying this is "not on the agenda of the Islamic Republic".

1400 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Prominent cleric Mehdi Taeb, who is also the brother of a key commander in the Revolutionary Guards, has swiped at the President: "Whoever speaks of 'human awakening' does not know what he is talking about."

Ahmadinejad has used recent speeches to proclaim that Iran is leading the world in a "human awakening". The Supreme Leader's presentation --- reflecting an "Islamic-first" rather than an "Iran-first" approach --- has been of an "Islamic Awakening".

1355 GMT: Unity Watch. An evaluation in Khabar Online, complementing our analysis of President Ahmadinejad, of whether conservatives and principlists are moving towards "unity" --- citing the Supreme Leader's advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, the piece questions whether the Islamic Constancy Front, often framed as pro-Ahmadinejad, is co-operating with other factions.

1330 GMT: The Explosion. Iranian officials are lining up to deny that Israel and US are behind Saturday's blast at an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base that killed at least 17 people, including a Guards commander.

Hassan Firouzabadi, the head of Iran's armed forces, said the explosion was an accident during "research" at the base: "This recent incident and blast has no link to Israel or America but the outcome of the research, in which the incident happened as a consequence, could be a strong smack to the mouth of Israel and its occupying regime." He said the work on the "very important product" would be disrupted for two weeks but would resume "with more strength".

Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani insisted, "Whatever the enemies say about the IRGC base incident is fiction and therefore not important."

1320 GMT: Elections Watch. Monsters and Critics puts a different slant on former President Mohammad Khatami's speech, considered by EA yesterday, about the state of Iranian politics and society.

The website leads, "Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami on Monday called on the opposition not to boycott the parliamentary election scheduled for March," adding his purported comment, "Whoever in the opposition feels he was treated badly should now say I forgive (the government) and run in the parliamentary elections."

That appears to be a significant mis-reading of the speech, posted on Khatami's website. While the former President says, "It is our religious and national duty to participate in elections", he puts this as a principle to be sought. He clearly re-states that, for this participation to occur, "basic conditions" --- freeing of political prisoners, free and fair elections with the right of political parties to organise and participate, and adherence to the Constitution --- must be observed.

1040 GMT: Budget Watch. Reformist MP Mohammad Reza Khabbaz has claimed that the Government has run up a 28 trillion Toman ($21 billion) budget deficit for 2011/12 because of miscalculations and unrealised income.

0823 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. Something to keep in mind for our analysis later today of the claim that "Ahmadinejad Goes on the Offensive" against his opponents (see 0640 GMT)....

MP Ali Motahari, the persistent critic of the President, says he plans to add Ahmadinejad's recent statements to his proposed interrogation by Parliament. MP Ali Akbar Oulia has the same idea, launching a committee of legislators to pursue the initiative and to prevent the repeated claim of "withdrawals of signatories" from the petition to question Ahmadinejad.

0818 GMT: Unity Watch. The reformist Etemaad newspaper notes that, while authorities have banned a reformist conference, the proposed "unity front" of conservatives and principlists has been putting up "many banners" for a Thursday meeting in Tehran.

0810 GMT: Nuke Watch. Iranian students form a "human chain" around the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan on Tuesday:

0805 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. The head of the Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has declared that, amidst its "humiliation", "the collapse of the political regime" that it has dominated, and Occupy Wall Street, the US will soon be begging for negotiations with Iran.

0800 GMT: Energy Watch. More fencing between Pakistan and Iran over gas supplies, with the Pakistani Minister of Oil saying that Islamabad can get cheaper energy from Turkmenistan.

Last week, Iran reportedly suspended gas shipments to a Pakistani State company because of non-payment, possibly amidst complications over US-led sanctions. Washington has urged Islamabad to find alternative suppliers.

0755 GMT: Foreign Affairs (The Turkish Front). The regime may have reached out to Turkey on Tuesday, offering to share nuclear technology, but the hard-line newspaper Kayhan appears to have a different script: it declares that Turkey is "not a realistic model" for Islamic countries, as only Iran can put forth a system based on sharia law.

0745 GMT: Clerical Interventions (cont.). On the nine-month anniversary of the strict house arrests imposed on opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi and Fatemeh Karroubi, both Grand Ayatollah Sane'i and Ayatollah Dastgheib have called for their release.

0715 GMT: The Labour Front. Iran Labor Report updates on the recurring strikes at Iran's petrochemical facilities, noting a walkout last week at Amirkabir Petrochemical Complex.

The strikes in Iran's Special Economic Zone began in March, with a walkout in September of almost two weeks at the Bandar Imam complex in southern Iran.

The workers at Amirkabir decided on Monday to return to work temporarily pending the result of management’s talks ith "state and non-state authorities".

0705 GMT: President v. Prime Minister. Influential official Mohammad Javad Larijani has said that a Prime Ministerial system, replacing an elected President, is unlikely to be implemented before the 2013 campaign for the Presidency.

Larijani, a senior figure at the judiciary, said the idea was "still at the level of contemplation", "needs study", and may take years before a law is drafted and put to a referendum: "I don't think it is coming in five to six years. At [the] least, we have [a] next president, definitely, but I don't know, perhaps one, two other presidents will come."

There has been much speculation about the future of the Presidency after the Supreme Leader said last month that it would be "no problem" for Parliament to select a Prime Minister.

0700 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Dastgheib, speaking to teachers and cultural leaders on Eid Ghadir, has called for release of political prisoners, free elections, and withdrawal of security forces from communities to their barracks.

Dastgheib also made this pointed statement: "If velayat-e faqih [the system of clerical supremacy] claims to be above the law, it is violating the law."

0640 GMT: A relatively quiet day in Iranian politics on Tuesday --- one EA correspondent argues, "The country is still shocked by the Malard blast [at a Revolutionary Guards base on Saturday], and media are muzzled" ---  so it might be noted what did not happen....

The Supreme Leader did not appear with political and military figures on the occasion of Eid Ghadir, unlike last year when he spoke to an audience of 110,000 Basij militia.

No one is making much noise about this. President Ahmadinejad's non-appearance at a Doha summit of gas-exporting countries, however, is drawing interested comment. Some observers credit domestic problems, others claim differences with Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi. There is also the argument that Ahmadinejad did not want to stand beside Qassemi, who has been specifically named in US-led sanctions.

The safe assessment is that any silence will be short-lived, with the political manoeuvres and clashes soon resuming. Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post argues, "Ahmadinejad Goes on the Offensive Against Clerical Opponents":

For months, Iran’s clerical establishment and Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders have been trying to curb the powers of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In recent weeks, the president has fought back, using combative speeches and threats to reveal his opponents’ corruption in order to hold on to his job.

The tactics appear to be working, according to parliament members and analysts.

We have a somewhat different perspective, which we will set out in an analysis later this morning."

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