Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (15 March): The Regime Supports the Right to Protest

2150 GMT: A Royal Retreat. Iranian MP Hamid Resai has announced that the visit of King Abdullah II of Jordan to Iran has been cancelled: “In view of the current critical situation, the Jordanian Abdullah’s trip to Tehran did not meet the approval of senior Islamic Republic officials.”

A number of MPs had protested the invitation of the Jordanian monarch to celebrate Iranian New Year, in a ceremony hosted by President Ahmadinejad at the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis. They noted the rise of protests in Jordan calling for political and economic reforms.

2145 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Reformist Ahmad Hakimipour and journalist Nazanin Khosravani have been released from prison.

Khosravani, detained for 135 days, was freed on $60,000 bail.

2130 GMT: Fire Festival. Claimed footage of people celebrating and singing original Iranian National Anthem tonight:

2030 GMT: Cartoon of the Day. Nikahang Kowsar presents his version of Chahrshanbeh Suri (the Fire Festival):

1853 GMT: There are several unverified reports of firecrackers being thrown at security forces tonight during the Fire Festival celebrations. 

1645 GMT: Fire Festival. Claimed footage of Chahrshanbeh Suri tonight in Tehran, with people chanting, "Mobarak, Ben Ali Nobate Seyed Ali" ("Mubarak, Ben Ali, now it's Seyed Ali [Khamenei's] Turn"):

1625 GMT: Economy Watch. Khabar Online takes aim at the 9% rise in the minimum wage (see 1000 GMT), claiming that the rate is still only 1/4 of what a family of four needs for subsistence.

1620 GMT: Energy Watch. Aftab reports that gasoil consumption rose to more than 56 million litres per day ahead of the Iranian New Year (Nowruz), a 2.3% increase.

The Ahmadinejad Government has been claiming that subsidy cuts have successfully reduced Iranian consumption of fuel.

1615 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. RAHANA claims that 332 people were arrested on political charges in February.

1550 GMT: Music Corner. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has denied a permit for the album, "Morgh-e khosh-khan", from the legendary singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian.

Watch Video - Watch Video

1330 GMT: Show Me the Money. The judiciary has announced that it is beginning a review of $11 billion missing in oil funds.

1310 GMT: Economy Watch. Aftab News reports that 8000 carpet weaver apprentices are jobless.

1140 GMT: Legal Briefs. Iranian lawyers have written the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to highlight the detentions of many defense attorneys, especially those representing political prisoners and human rights cases. They put this in the context of the claim the "recent restrictions against lawyers are rare" in Iran.

1130 GMT: Irony of the Day? A video report on 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi noted that Rahimi, accused of involvement in a major insurance fraud, has promised, "The government will cut off the hands of the corrupt."

1010 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. In an interview with Spanish television, President Ahmadinejad has denounced "military action in Libya as the worst option", opposing a no-fly zone.

Ahmadinejad also upheld the superiority of the Iranian system and his Presidency, "In the past 30 years we had 30 free elections. I spend four hours a week talking to people on the street." He added, "We have examples of massacres in the US and Europe, where there are secret prisons and people are jailed for writing a book,"

1000 GMT: Economy Watch. The Supreme Labour Council has raised the minimum wage for Iran's workers by 9%. The increase is the smallest in six years.

0730 GMT: Election Alert. Iranian officials have again signalled that suspect reformists, including the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, will not be allowed to stand for Parliament in next year's elections.

Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman for the Guardian Council, said that the 14 February opposition demonstrations revealed that "sedition"is supported by Israel and the US: "All those who have collaborated the leaders of the sedition (opposition) will fail to get through the Guardian Council's selection process and so won't be able to stand in next year's parliamentary elections."

Kadkhodaei also said of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, cut off for more than a month in their residences or in detention, "that "house arrest is the least they deserve".

0715 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Activist Fakhrosaadat Mohtashamipour, who was detained during opposition protests last month, has been transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence's Ward 209 at Evin Prison.

Mohtashamipour is the wife of leading reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who is also imprisoned.

Green Voice of Freedom adds information on the arrest of attorney Maedeh Ghaderi, detained since 3 March. Ghaderi, an Iranian Kurd, had been representing her husband Ali Parandian.

0620 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Ayatollah Ahmad Beheshti, a member of the Assembly of Experts for Shiraz, has said in an interview that the Government has distanced itself from the clergy. He asserted that senior clerics have been silent to maintain the Iranian system (nezam).

0610 GMT: Subsidy Cut/Economy Watch (Public Opinion Edition). Parliament's Research Center has carried out a survey across 30 Iranian provinces of public opinion on the Ahmadinejad Government's subsidy cuts programme and economic performance.

Headline figures include the belief of 57% of the respondents that the subsidy reforms will lead to rising prices and inflation. A majority, however, supported the programme's cash payments of $44 per month (58% in favour) and job creation programmes even if they bring further inflation (65%).

A large majority testified to the impact of economic sanctions on Iran, with 40% saying they were "very effective" and 42% "somehow effective". Only 11% thought the US-led measures had been "ineffective".

On the headline issue of the Government's performance, 55% said it had been "mediocre" or "weak", while 42% endorsed it as "good" or "very good".

0535 GMT: On That Right to Protest. As we noted last night, the Secretary-General to the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon has released an interim report to the Human Rights Council on Iran's situation: "The Secretary-General has been deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, amputations, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists."

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has highlighted the report and added context, while Reuters also picked up the news.

0520 GMT: Perhaps not the headline you might expect from our Iran coverage, but Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi came out with a strong statement on Monday that "the...government [must] be wise in responding to the demands of protesters and respecting their rights". Salehi said that authorities should avoid "violence and force against the population".

To be clear, however, Salehi was not referring to his Government but the one in Bahrain.

Tonight Iranians will begin the celebration of Chahrshanbeh Suri, the Fire Festival, gathering with families and, for the more enthusiastic, jumping over fires and lighting fireworks. While there had been talk amongst opposition groups of a protest for today, there is no sign of an organised demonstration. Instead, it will be up to the observer to decide if there are any political messages from individuals and groups as they celebrate.

Authorities are still nervous, however. A series of statements on Tuesday from police and judiciary officials continued the warning that excessive festivities, especially by youth, might be "counter-revolutionary".


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