Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (12 March): A Challenge from Prison

Tonight's Headline News: The daughters of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard have met their parents for the first time since Mousavi and Rahnavard were put under strict house arrest on 14 February.

Mousavi, who was not informed of the meeting and so was surprised to see his daughters, told them that agents raided the family home on 14 February --- the day of the first significant opposition marches in Tehran for more than a year --- and confiscated books, CDs, and personal items. The security forces even took classified documents from Mousavi's tenure as Prime Minister in the late 1980s.

The daughters claimed the yard of their parents' home was full of agents and a dark van was parked there. They said they were told to keep quiet about the meeting but believed people had a right to know.

2110 GMT: In the Courts. Mohammad Tahir Haeri Shirazi, the son of President Ahmadinejad's mentor Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi, has been sentenced to six years in prison for land theft.

2050 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The Supreme Leader and Iran's head of judiciary may have asked for a cessation of public attacks on relatives of political figures but --- even after the ousting of Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Assembly of Experts --- some people are not listening.

Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, the former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, has asked, since Rafsanjani's daughter Faezeh Hashemi is a mercenary to the devil, why she is not punished.

Meanwhile, Rafsanjani's brother-in-law Hossein Marashi has been handed a life-time ban on political activity.

2030 GMT: Another Letter from Prison. We opened the day by noting the challenge of detained reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh to the "election coup" and post-election repression. Well, it's not the only one this week....

Kalemeh has posted the open letter of Mohsen Aminzadeh, the imprisoned Chief of Staff of Mir Hossein Mousavi and a former Deputy Foreign Minister, declaring the intervention of the armed forces in favour of a candidate --- in this case, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad --- indicates that he would have lost a free and fair vote.

1330 GMT: Reading the Assembly. In an interview with Khabar Online, leading conservative MP Ali Motahari has claimed that the ascendancy of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani to the leadership of the Assembly of Experts could be a buffer against the extremism, as his ideas are more likely than those of his predecessor, Hashemi Rafsanjani, to be "approved by hardliners to make the political climate of the country more moderate".

Motahari praised Rafsanjani, a "man of the people", and continued his challenge to the Ahmadinejad Government: "We must also pay attention to the wrongdoings of the insiders without being intolerant to the criticisms made against our faction."

1320 GMT: Energy Watch. Parliament's Research Center has said that Iran's electricity industry faces a "catastrophic crisis", criticising the Government's 2011 budget as "unrealistic" and expressing concern about the lack of resources for investment.

1300 GMT: The Battle Within. Mohammad Reza Bahonar, leading Principlist MP and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has said that the next political clashes in Iran will come amongst principlists within the system.

1220 GMT: "Proper" Elections. A Ministry of Interior official has said that "all political currents" who observe the law can participate in elections, but those who are "committed to overthrow" of the regime will be barred.

Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, in an apparent attempt to split the reformist camp, said that regardless of the radical transformation by some reformist figures, authorities knew that most reformists were operating within the law.

The Guardian Council, which oversees Iranian elections, blocked the most prominent reformists --- including Mostafa Tajzadeh (see 0650 GMT) --- from standing in the 2008 Parliamentary contest, leaving what it said as a more accommodating reformist movement in the legislature.

The next Parliamentary vote is in 2012.

1050 GMT: Middle East Postures. With little happening of note, a moment to look at the latest declarations from the regime of "We're Winning, They're Losing"....

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Deputy Commander of the Revolutionary Guards, proclaimed, “In the past, the Middle East was the US launchpad and the US grandeur was because it used to have the control of the Middle East's oil, market and economy. But now, this power is declining due to Islam-seeking movements." 

All this, of course, was the admirable emulation of Tehran: “By following the example of Iran's Islamic Revolution, countries such as Libya, Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have initiated an Islamic movement to bring despotism to its knees."

0650 GMT: Amidst a quiet phase in Iranian politics, I note the re-emergence of Mostafa Tajzadeh, the leading reformist who has refused to "repent" and so remains in prison.

Tajzadeh said the authorities might have his body but he kept his soul and faith, as he again denounced the "election coup" and the post-election repression: "The purpose is not just to remove the reformists, but also even the fundamentalists who are independent personalities."

A leading member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution, Tajzadeh specifically challenged Ayatollah Jannati, the head of the Guardian Council, as a symbol of "non-free elections" and said he was ready to debate --- from Evin Prison --- members of the regime.

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