1330 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch (Elections Edition). Tabnak reports that President Ahmadinejad has begun campaign meetings with his team including senior advisors Ali Akbar Javanfekr, Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi,and Abbas Amirifar; son-in-law Mehdi Khorshidi, and son Alireza Ahmadinejad. A new oraganisation, Supporters of Government Front, has been created.
Speaking to supporters yesterday, Ahmadinejad reportedly said, "Even if the pressures on the Government increase, the Government will not resign and back down. I have many things about the next election that I will say in the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, others have started mobilising against Ahmadinejad. The Supreme Leader's advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, in his speech to supporters (see 0735 GMT), advised principlists, “Based on the importance of election and the international pressures on Iran, unity among the people in charge and the principlists is necessary." He said those who were silent toward the deviant and seditious currents --- read Ahmadinejad's camp and unrepentant reformists --- "are not part of our list".
Alireza Zakani, another senior figure in the Unity Front, claimed that Ahmadinejad's team was already putting out lots of money: "The deviant current for the victory of each of its candidates has spend 1-3 billion Tomans (about $650,000 to $2 million).”
Seyed Solat Mortazavi, the head of Iran's Election Organisation, asked Zakani to present his evidence to the Ministry of Interior.
1125 GMT: In the Skies. Morteza Dehqan, head of Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, has said that refuelling has been halted for some European and Arab airlines because of "Government directives".Dehqan said the action was in response to a ban by Euroepan and Arab countries on servicing of Iran Air flights: "In a reciprocal move, we are not giving fuel to the airlines of countries which do not give fuel to our airlines."
The rial had hovered around 15200:1 last week, after a Central Bank intervention failed to bring a long-term boost in its value.
1025 GMT: Premature Propaganda. The Iranian military has modified its earlier statement that it has test-fired long-range missiles on the 8th day of its 10-day exercise, now saying that "medium-range surface-to-air missiles will be fired".
Senior navy commander Mahmoud Mousavi said, "The exercise of launching (long-range) missiles will be carried out in the coming days."
Still, the bluster continues. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari has declared, “Under the international law and as maintained by our (Supreme) Leader, we have no intention to march into any country but we are determined to make our presence felt in international waters."
0745 GMT: Elections Watch. Khabar Online offers a useful introduction to the question of who is participating in the Parliamentary elections. Profiling 61 applicants for candidacy in Tehran, it claims four "reformists".
One of the four, Mohammad Baqer Zakeri, is a former reformist MP. The other three are members of the Workers House labour movement, which has been supportive of the reformists in recent years.
0735 GMT: Elections Watch. Let the campaigning begin....
On the surface, the extensive statement on Friday by Ali Akbar Velayati, the Supreme Leader's representative and head of the United Front, was a denunciation of the "sedition" after the 2009 Presidential election.
It does not take much digging, however, to find that Velayati was also taking aim at another foe. He spoke about the possibility of newer sedition: "I can not imagine that this case is closed; there may be a diversionary current and inflammatory processes in the future."
That statement may be seen as a shot at the Islamic Constancy Front, the rival conservative/principlist faction that has refused to join the United Front, and the Ahmadinejad camp.
0730 GMT: Finding the Culprit. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of the Basij militia, knows the reason for "32 years of absolute political power in the world": it is "the contents of books of political science by theorists at Western universities".
0700 GMT: Diversion Watch. Uh-oh, looks like news coverage today will give way to hyperbole about "threat" --- Press TV has "Breaking News" that "Iran's Navy has test-fired long range missiles on the eighth day of its massive naval maneuvers in the strategic Strait of Hormuz".
0645 GMT: Amongst State media's cheerleading about the number of applicants to stand for Parliament in March's elections --- there were 5283, a significant fall on the 2008 figure, although the media did not note this --- this loud, perhaps desperate item from the Tehran Times stood out:
Mohammad Ali Kouzegar and Asgar Eslamdoust, two reformists who served as lawmakers in the 6th Majlis (2000–2004), registered for the parliamentary elections on Friday.
The qualifications of the two reformers were rejected by the Guardian Council in the succeeding parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2008.
Kouzegar, who was represented Shahriar in the 6th Majlis, said, “Many of the reformists avoided taking part in the elections, therefore I will contest as an independent (candidate).”
He emphasized that it is against the interests of the country to boycott the elections.
He referred to Article 28 of the election law as a reason for his disqualification in the previous elections and said, “My disqualification was a result of a mistake and misunderstanding.”
Eslamdoust, who represented Talesh, a city in Gilan Province, in the 6th parliament, again registered for parliamentary elections.
“I registered for the last two elections, but I was disqualified. The reason most probably is that I am a reformist; however, reformists do not intend to overthrow the Islamic system,” Eslamdoust stated.
So let's see if I have this straight: after weeks of efforts by elements within the establishment --- including the Supreme Leader's office --- to get reformists to stand for election, after days of proclamations that those reformists would be emerging, there are a total of two, relatively minor figures who can be highlighted? And to do this, there has to be the tacit admission that the Iranian system erred in disqualifying them in the last two campaigns?
Perhaps the names of more reformists, standing as independents, will emerge this weekend. But for now, it appears the regime will struggle to claim legitimacy through their involvement. And then the question will emerge: will the reformists go farther and call on voters to stay home?