Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (16 August): An Election Revelation?

See Also, Turkey PKK Special: Invasion of Kurdistan? Don't Count on It

The Latest from Iran (15 August): The World According to the Regime

1808 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front) - Tucked away in a lengthy article on Iranian-Syria relations in Asia Times Online are these important paragraphs:

Talking to Iranian officials it appears that there is deep unease about the methods employed by the Syrian security forces which have allegedly killed up to 2,000 people since protests and violence erupted in March. In private, Iranian officials draw a comparison to how professionally Iranian security forces responded to widespread rioting and disorder in the wake of the disputed presidential elections of June 2009...

Iranian intelligence sources deny that Iran has "exported" riot control or any other security-related expertise which could be used against the Syrian people. These sources refer to the profound differences in political culture and a lack of political will in Tehran to interfere directly in Syrian affairs. But Iranian intelligence sources admit that they have lent support to their Syrian counterparts in the field of psychological warfare and information management.

Talking exclusively to Asia Times Online, Iranian intelligence sources claim that they have provided "material" and "decisive" support to their Syrian counterparts on ways to defeat the intelligence-gathering and propaganda operations of Western intelligence services. They claim that Western intelligence, in particular American, French, British and German services, are co-ordinating extensive intelligence-gathering and psychological warfare operations against Syria, from the Lebanese capital Beirut.

1738 GMT: Reformist Watch. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President in the Khatami Administration, has said that reformists demand essential changes in political atmosphere of the country: "We are not ready to get to power at any price."

Ebtekar said that, while she wondered if a minority of a certain faction would rule Iran even after a majority had voted, she had no clear position on participation in elections. However, her comments pointed to a boycott; "Reformists are completely restricted and are insulted all the time. How could they run for elections under such conditions?"

1736 GMT: Poetry Corner. The Supreme Leader, meeting young poets, has explained their craft to them. He said critical poems should not turn into a tool for opponents, and revolution and religion must be stressed in the verses.

And he mentioned that Islamic revolutions in the region had been influenced by the people of Iran.

1733 GMT: Back from a quick break...

Playing the Revolutionary Guards. Following his implication last month that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has been involved in illegal imports at Iran's ports and docks, President Ahmadinejad has ordered that national customs is solely responsible for all imports and no other organisation has the right to interfere.

One EA correspondent is sceptical of the impact: "First he gives (IRGC commander) Qassemi full control as Minister of Oil, then he attacks the illegal IRGC ports. Wonder how he will manage that?"

1606 GMT: Oil alert - Mehr News has published an unconfirmed report that the Islamic Republic of Iran is cancelling its arrangement with the largest European oil company, Belarusneft, over the low output of the Jafir oil field.

1554 GMT: It's Ahmadinejad's fault - Kalame has posted a statement by hardline cleric Mohsen Doagoo that Ahmadinejad, not Khatami, was responsible for the "fitna" of 2009. Perhaps Doagoo feels that Khatami doesn't have enough power, and so can be taken off the hook, but you know things are bad when the hardliners are moving their blame for post-election sedition off of the reformists and onto the President.

1523 GMT: Big tent alert - Ali Motahari, a hardline MP, jabs at Haddad Adel, whose daughter is married to Khamenei's son, after had said that the Supreme Leader wants a single list of hardliners who are running for the Majlis elections. Motahari replied that they should avoid giving the impression that Khamenei is the leader of hardliners only.

1507 GMT: Nuclear Front. The Russian news service Ria Novosti says Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is travelling to Moscow for nuclear talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

1502 GMT: Reformist Watch. Abbas Abdi has said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that hardliners' calls for reformists to participate in Parliamentary elections proves they fear a victory by the Ahmadinejad camp.

Abdi said that if the Iranian establishment wants reformists to run, it will give clear signals from the highest level, i.e. the Supreme Leader, with steps such as the release of political prisoners.

1459 GMT: Deviant Current Watch. Hard-line outlet Mashregh News has announced that the "deviant current" around President Ahmadinejad wants to create a parallel intelligence service. The site says this will be led by "Mr S.", a former general manager of a sensitive ministry, who has recently been arrested for fraud in his job.

Javan Online outlines five goals of the deviant current if they control Parliament after the March elections, including a restriction of the Supreme Leader's authority and an increase of Ahmadinejad's power, leading to "dual rule", supported by changes in the Constitution.

1455 GMT: Subsidy Cut Watch. Warning signs from different directions on the Government's subsidy cuts programme...

Minister of Economy Shamseddin Hosseini says Government income from subsidy cuts, including on energy and food, has been less than $60 billion. That is lower than Government projections and could raise issues both for the support payments to people to cover prices and for Government expenditure.

Indeed, Hossein Hashemi, a member of Parliament's Industry Committee, says. less than 20% --- 550,000 tomans ($500,000) of a planned 2,950 million tomans ($2.65 million) in subsidy refunds was paid to the private sector between December and mid-March.

Hashemi also indicated, contrary to the report of the International Monetary Fund that the programme was not curbing imports --- they remain twice as high as exports.

1448 GMT: James Miller is back. Hopefully, he and his coffee will bring the "live" back to the "liveblog." Luckily, Scott Lucas, despite still being on vacation, has sent a few updates to kick things off:

On the Telly. A poll in 31 provincal centres points to all the contradictions of watching satellite TV, which is formally illegal in Iran.

Viewing is up from 34% to 42% since last year, with those "very interested" rising from 28% to 34% and those with "no interest" falling from 40% to 35%.

Interestingly, 70% of the respondents say the goals of satellite TV are anti-cultural, weakening religion and inciting to unrest. Which, as a commentator notes, raises the question: "Why do 42% watch it anyway?"

A side note: in northwest Iran, 50% of those sampled say they watch Turkish TV...

0742 GMT: Foreign Fail (Britain Edition). The Guardian has a bit of fun with the regime's "Britain is Collapsing" theme.

The newspaper notes that claimed images of this month's unrest in England included a September 2010 photo alongside a story abot security plans for a football match and a street filled with police at the 2008 Notting Hill Carnival (which did not turn into a protest for the overthrow of the monarchy).

The prize for most creative use of a display of the oppression of Britain's masses in 2011, however, had to be an image of police in the miners' strike...of 1984.

And then were the examples of British unrest thousands of miles from Britain. There was the shot of a 2009 protest in Washington in support of Palestinians. And a road sign in Spanish may have been a clue that a photograph was from Chile.

0714 GMT: Foreign Affairs (British Front). Pro-regime protesters, in front of the British Embassy, modify a theme from the aftermath of the demonstrations in Iran after the disputed 2009 Presidential election --- they announce, "We are all Mark Duggan", the man whose death at the hands of police two weeks ago sparked unrest in London.

In June 2009, supporters of the Iranian protesters declared, "We are all Neda", in memory of Neda Agha Soltan, the philosophy student killed by a Basij militiaman as she watched a mass protest.

0709 GMT: Economy Watch. The Government may have relented and allowed publication of inflation figures, but now it faces a challenge on economic performance. Parliament's Research Center comments:

One can't accept that 765,000 jobs were created with around 6% growth during the first years of the fourth development plan (2005-2009), while 1% growth has created 1,600,000 jobs [since then]....Lack of strategy and a comprehensive investment planning guiding the investors has led to non-creative activities in various forms.

President Ahmadinejad has declared that 2.5 million new jobs will be generated this year.

0704 GMT: Pick a Number. After a two-month lapse in any official mention of inflation, the Central Bank has announced that the rate is 16.3%, up from 14.5% in April/May.

Stories had circulated that President Ahmadinejad had forbidden the Bank from issuing official statements on inflation.

0702 GMT: Fashion Fail. The political rumbling over hijab --- started by a special section in a pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper which appeared to criticise compulsory fashion for women --- continues.

Mehdi Kalhor, the former senior Presidential advisor, was the focal point of hard-line criticism after an interview in which he apparently said the black chador, the full-length Islamic covering for women, was not brought to Iran by clerics but by a 19th-century Shah who had seen European women in black dresses at evening parties.

Now Kalhor has "explained" the troublesome comment:

  1. He was offering no religious or legal declaration on chador but making a "historical and aesthetic" statement.

  2. "Hijab is one of the necessities of Islam."

  3. Anyway, the interview was from 2009 and not 2011, and he had not seen the version this weekend in Iran newspaper.

0700 GMT: Scott Lucas starts us off with a few headlines:

The item that caught my eye on Monday was the claim of the reformist newspaper Emruz of a taped "confession" by the President's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai, in a private meeting with Ahmadinejad supporters --- Rahim-Mashai supposedly admitted that Mir Hossein Mousavi had received 15 million votes, rather than the 11 million "official" return, in the 2009 Presidential election.

The significance is more than an undercount for Mousavi --- where did those 4 million votes migrate on Election Night? Not to candidates Mohsen Rezaei or Mehdi Karroubi, who had miniscule official totals. That leaves President Ahmadinejad, who supposedly was favoured by 23 million voters.

Now the immediate reaction could be Big Deal --- if Ahmadinejad had only 19 million+ votes and Mousavi 15 million, the President is still the "winner", even before the manipulation.

That, however, misses the bigger point --- the crucial threshold for Ahmadinejad on 12 June 2009 was not the largest number of votes, but the support of more than 50% of the electorate. And 19+ million would have fallen below that mark in a contest with a turnout of 40+ million people.

So Ahmadinejad would have had to go into a second-round ballot against Mousavi. And as the 2005 election proved, when Ahmadinejad overtook Hashemi Rafsanjani, anything can happen in second rounds.

Now there are a lot of "ifs" here, beginning with a reformist source making the claim. But the claimed outline of this new election tale bears out the lesson we have learned for more thanm two years --- the daunting scenario for the Ahmadinejad camp in June 2009 was not a Mousavi victory but the possibility that the President might now have taken a majority.

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