Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (9 March): More than Political Games

2210 GMT: Clerical Challenge. A different line of criticism from Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani, who has been distancing himself from the regime, today....

Vahid Khorasani said that the Government was "losing Islam" by failing to prevent Iran's youth from being seduced by Christianity.

2150 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Ardavan Tarakmeh, student director, writer and film critic, has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Tarakmeh is the son of reputed writer and literary critic Younes Tarakmeh. He was arrested during the Ashura demonstrations of 27 December 2009.

Farnaz Kamali, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for women's rights, has been released on $300,000 bail.

Kamali was arrested in Tehran during the protests on 20 February and charged with actions against national security, membership in the Campaign to Free [student activist] Atefeh Nabavi, and participation in protests.

Kamali is a political science student at Azad University in Tehran.

Labour activist Haleh Safarzadeh has been released after one day in detention.

2130 GMT: Policing the Press. Ayande News, a conservative site, says it was filtered by Iranian authorities tonight.

No explanation for the block was given.

2115 GMT: The House Arrests. A provocative claim from Al Arabiya tonight....

The Persian-language site of the channel asserts that opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard were removed from their residence, where they were under house arrest, for one day as regime leaders debated their fate. Al Arabiya states that Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of the Supreme Leader, wanted their arrest but his father vetoed the suggestion.

Al Arabiya says the move of Mousavi and Rahnavard, and the dispute over what to do with them, occurred on 24 February.

1845 GMT: Sedition Watch. Given that his Government has supposedly vanquished the opposition, Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council, sure was sounding worried today as he addressed the Assembly of Experts.

Jalili asserted that the US and western countries have allocated $55 million to fabricate news and reports to stir up unrest. Washington and its European allies have set up 874 websites to support seditionists, he insisted. (Jalili did not specifically mention EA WorldView.)

Jalili explained that Iran's enemies of the Islamic Republic are trying to mimic Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions to stop Tehran's influence in the region. So they have encouraged "their Iranian links and masterminds of the sedition" to bring supporters onto the streets.

Fars, carrying Jalili's words, acknowledged the 14 February protests, the first public display by the opposition in a year. The site presented this as "several groups of seditionists stag[ing] riots in western Tehran, damaging public amenities and private buildings and killing two people. (In fact, it was two protesters, Sanee Zhaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari, were slain.) Fars, in line with the Government's presentation, did not acknowledge the 20 February and 1 March protests.

1740 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. A correction to our earlier story (1150 GMT) of the cyber-attacks on Hashemi Rafsanjani, a day after he was ousted as head of the Assembly of Experts.

The false news of Rafsanjani's death with the photo of a burning candle and the inscription "May He RIP" was posted on the Assembly website and that of the Expediency Council, which Rafsanjani still heads.

Rafsanjani's own website was running slowly today but was not hacked.

The Rafsanjani put a brave face on the news. Mohammad Hashemi, who runs his brother's office at the Expediency Council, said: “Hashemi Rafsanjani reacted to the news of his own death with laughter.”

WikiLeaks and The New Axis of Evil: Iran's Ahmadinejad = Owner of Baseball's New York Yankees
Iran Special: Profiles of 107 Imprisoned Women
Iran Snapshot: What Now for Rafsanjani?
Tuesday's Latest from Iran: From International Women's Day to the Assembly

1655 GMT: Press Watch. Sasan Valizadeh, the deputy head of the office of the controversial 1st Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, has become head of the Iranian Students News Agency.

1645 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Hashemi Rafsanjani's website, now back on-line, has posted the former President's last remarks as head of the Assembly of Experts. They are a testament to Rafsanjani's balancing act, even as he was being pushed out of his post.

Rafsanjani launched an implicit criticism of the Government by worrying about "damaged ethics in our society at official and unofficial levels through slander, deceit, and hypocrisy, with which Islam is incompatible". But he held fast to his allegiance to Ayatollah Khamenei: "Velayat-e-faqih(clerical supremacy) is the linchpin of our system and people are happy with the Supreme Leader."

1300 GMT: Clerical Reminder. The conservative Grand Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has offered a bit of advice to the Government,declared that the Basij militia's "brothers and sisters" should hold their tongues and not insult anyone.

1150 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The website of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani has been hacked, a day after he was ousted as head of the Assembly of Experts. The site initially had a message "May He RIP" with a photograph claiming to mark Rafsanjani's demise.

The site is now off-line. (UPDATE 1315 GMT: The site is now up, but running very slowly.)

1000 GMT: Labour Front. Workers of a textile company in Qa'emshahr in northern Iran have protested over wages, gathering in front of the Governor's office.

0925 GMT: Corruption Watch. MP Elyas Naderan, a long-time conservative challenger to the Government, declares that Parliament's Economic Commission should publish the names of seven people with $1.5 billion in debts to Iran's banking system.

0915 GMT: MediaWatch. We generally refrain from publicising US-based opinion pieces --- as opposed to news and analysis --- on Iran.

I need to make an exception, however, for a column by a Ms Madison Schramm in The Huffington Post, "Reassessing the Green Movement", just in case anyone mistakes it for having any value in understanding the Green Movement, Iranian politics, or, indeed, anything to do with Iran.

0710 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. An EA colleague makes this sharp assessment after the events in the Assembly of Experts (see Tuesday's updates and 0615 GMT):

The facts of yesterday further undermine the expectations of those who saw the former President as essential for a "rebound" of the moderate-reformist movement within the institutional sphere. Formerly in the position of "kingmaker", [Hashemi] Rafsanjani is now limited to running the Expediency Council, a body that has been in a virtually inactive state since the Presidential elections of 2009. For the former President, now even deprived of his ability to defend the personal interests and integrity of his children, this looks and feels like the twilight of a political career he spent pursuing the well-being of the Islamic Revolution, which in turns now seems to have added him to the ranks of the many children it has devoured in the numerous internal crises of the last 30 years.

0705 GMT: Protest. A banner hung from an overpass on the Niayesh Highway in Tehran, "Dictator, Say Hello to the End":

0625 GMT: The other development holding our attention on Tuesday was the marking of International Women's Day. The opposition heralded the day with statements of support but never sought to put marchers on the streets. Hundreds reportedly assembled in a section of Tehran, however, for a "peaceful" march.

The regime's response was more striking. Even though there was never the prospect of an attempted mass rally, authorities again put out a heavy security presence in Tehran and, it is in claimed, in Iran's second city Mashhad. The limited video which claims to be from the day shows a mobilisation for a protest which never came, with security forces settling for a couple of kicks at passers-by.

0615 GMT: Barbara Slavin, one of the best US-based reporters on Iran, offers a useful overview of Tuesday's defeat of Hashemi Rafsanjani in the election for leadership of the Assembly of Experts, the 86-member body which formally chooses the Supreme Leader.

In the end, Rafsanjani withdrew the bid to retain his post after it was clear that Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the candidate put forward by pro-Ahmadinejad forces, had gathered support from a large majority of the Assembly --- in the end, 64 of the 80 declared ballots were for Mahdavi Kani, with no word on the other 16 votes.

Slavin rightly takes her article beyond the immediate result and the effect on Rafsanjani's position, "The gathering purge will also unsettle other members of the Iranian political elite --- particularly clerics in the theocratic center, Qom, who have supported Rafsanjani over the years and respect his long service to the Islamic Republic."

But it should also be noted that other non-clerics may be unsettled this morning. The battle for political authority has been going on long before yesterday's vote, and arguably beyond Rafsanjani. In particular, both Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and the head of judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, and their allies may be looking with concern at the boost that the Assembly result gives to the President's claim of power.

As I noted in an interview with Reuters yesterday, this is a clear short-term victory for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the political situation beyond this will be even more unsettled. In the end, Slavin is not served well by her headline writers, "Are the Islamic Republic's political games over? Or are they just beginning?"

This is far more serious than games.

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