Nikahang Kowsar portrays President Ahmadinejad's preparations for the Parliamentary elections in March
2115 GMT: Unity Watch. A short summary has been issued from today's meeting of the head of the three branch of Government --- President Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani (see 1038 GMT). It declares that the three men insisted on no red lines to eradicate financial corruption.
The language indicates a deliberate attempt to show unity despite tensions --- this summer, President Ahmadinejad warned his foes not to cross "red lines" and prosecute his advisors and minister, while both Ahmadinejad and his critics among conservatives and principlists have accused each other of links to corruption cases.
2055 GMT: Elections Watch. Only 48 hours after registration opened for the Parliamentary elections, and already there is a hint of the insistent in outlets supporting elements of the regime who are counting on a high turnout in the ballot.
Mehr claims a statement from the "pro-reform" Mardomsalari Party: “It is obvious that, in the current situation, if well-established political groupings and political groups and parties opt out, go into a sulk, and act passively and inertly, not only will they not be able to prepare congenial conditions for achieving their goals and ideals but also they will help newly emerged, rootless, and unpopular groupings to gain ascendancy.”
Fars asserts that Mardomsalari, the Hambastegi Party, and Etemad-e Melli Party --- linked to detained 2009 Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi --- have held a series of meetings over the formation of a coalition for the elections.
Conservative MP Ali Motahari, a prominent critic of President Ahmadinejad, has also called on the reformists to take part: “An energetic election for the ninth Parliament, with 70-percent participation, would stop further sanctions and discourage [foreign powers] from considering a military attack. The coming elections are a golden opportunity for the Islamic Republic to improve its domestic and international situation, make up for all shortcomings and disappoint the enemy.”
Motahari urged the Guardian Council to refrain from disqualifying nominees for “having links to [Mir Hossein] Mousavi and [Mehdi Karroubi's elections headquarters or having protested against the results of the Presidential elections.”
1630 GMT: Elections Watch (Not the Ahmadinejad Corner). Hassan Fadayi of the conservative Unity Front has claimed that the "deviant current" wants to sabotage subsidy cuts and is ready to sacrifice values to stay in power by appointing weak candidates. He claimed that people voted for ideals but not for Ahmadinejad.
1615 GMT: Elections Watch (Ahmadinejad Corner). A new pro-Ahmadinejad website, Hemmat-negar has declated that Elias Qalibaf, a relative of Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, has set up a media empire including Farda News, Shafaf News, and Asr-e Iran.
Hanif Hossein Satarian, the head of the pro-Ahmadinejad sites Hemmat Online and Bakeri Online --- both filtered in Iran --- will run in the Parliamentary elections.
1555 GMT: Business Watch. Rooz Online reports that the President has ordered Minister of Industries and Mines Mehdi Ghazanfari to hand out iron ore mines to the firm Zonouzi, even though it owes 12 trillion Toman (about $800 million) to banks.
1138 GMT: Currency Watch. The Iranian rial has dropped sharply today, nearing its record low vs. the US dollar.
The rial sank to 15390:1 vs. the dollar last week before the Central Bank told Parliament that it would put foreign currency into the market. Early Saturday morning, the rial rose to 14000:1 but it soon slipped, and today it stands at 15250:1.
1108 GMT: Elections Watch. Iran Police Commander Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam has warned against unrest before and during March's Parliamentary elections: “Those who register for the parliament must refrain from making promises that cannot be provided and avoid destroying each other. Instead, they should announce and describe their plans and ideas for the progress of the region and the country.
Ahmadi Moghaddam continued, “The expectation is that those get into the Majlis will be those who believe in the regime and have the trust of the public.”
1038 GMT: Unity Watch. The heads of the three branches of Government --- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and head of judiciary Sadegh Larijani --- have met this morning. Iranian media decorate their pages with photographs, but no details have been released.
0938 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi has declared that Iran's downing of a US drone demonstrates its ability to withstand the "violation" of its territory by the Americans. Vahidi continued, "The Zionist regime is in complete isolation and under no circumstances can it take military action against Iran without receiving fatal blows."
Moazeni was also detained in late September.
Karroubi, who has been held with his wife under strict house arrest for more than nine months, said some Iranian authorities are prepared to "implement the project once again" of their manipulation of the 2009 Presidential election. He said that, with their warnings of the "deviant current" and "sedition current", the officials were again showing they had no faith in the Iranian people.
0628 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Former Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Hamedani, now an advisor to representatives of the Supreme Leader, has declared that 90% of the Guards' capabilities in Tehran are deployed for "soft war" and are ready for any revival of public protest.
0620 GMT: The website Nedaye Enghelab fires a shot as the formal campaign opens for the March elections for Parliament: the "deviant current" has launched 1000 blogs and websites to fight principlists.
0605 GMT: Execution Watch. An Iranian official has resurrected the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman condemned to death on charges of adultery and conspiracy to murder.
The imposition of capital punishment, initially by stoning, on Ashtiani prompted an international outcry in 2010. Officials suspended the death sentence in July 2010, but continued to press the case for Ashtiani's guilt, including a "confession" on State TV in December.
On Sunday Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the head of the justice department in East Azerbaijan Province, repeating the line put out in summer 2010, said, “There is no haste....We are waiting to see whether we can carry out the execution of a person sentenced to stoning by hanging or not. As soon as the result (of the investigation) is obtained, we will carry out the sentence.”
Sharifi said that the charge of a married woman having an illicit relationship requires a punishment of stoning, but noted the order of the head of Iran's judiciary, Sadeqh Larijani, that Islamic experts should consider whether thsi could be altered.
0600 GMT: From the Classroom. The Teachers Organization of Iran has issued a statement calling for "an end to the security environment", "deeply regretting" the detention and intimidation of its members.
0540 GMT: The registration process opened yesterday for Iran's first national elections since the disputed Presidential vote of June 200. Supportive media put out photographs of volunteers processing applications by candidates for the Parliamentary ballot in March.
There is still a long road for any of those candidates. Each of them has to be scrutinised by the Guardian Council, which will rule if he/she is suitable to stand.
And the atmosphere for this campaign is far different from that of the 2009 Presidential contest, which witnessed enthusiastic crowds and excited debate --- among candidates and voters --- as the candidacy of Mir Hossein Mousavi gathered strength. That excitement came to an abrupt end on Election Day 12 June amidst the intimidation of the staffs of Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, including detentions and cut-off of communication, contributing to still-unresolved questions over the legitimacy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election.
With Mousavi and Karroubi under strict house arrest and dissent suppressed, the Parliamentary campaign will not be marked by an opposition challenge. Even the minority reformist camp in the Majlis is unlikely to make an organised stand. Most reformist parties, some of whom have been suspended, will not field candidates; instead, the question is whether prominent reformists will call for voters to stay away from the polls.
Instead, this campaign will be distinguished by the battle within the conservative and principlist factions. The quest for unity, overcoming the tension between the Ahmadinejad camps and its rivals, has failed. It is not only other politicians, including Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and his allies, who would be involved in intricate manoevures to check the President; the Supreme Leader's inner circle is also working behind the scenes, fearing the Ahmadinejad "deviant current" will take control of the Majlis in March.