Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (13 December): Nuclear Talks with the IAEA

The European Parliament awards the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in absentia to detained lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who is threatened with imprisonment

See also Iran Snap Analysis: Speculating about the Next President
The Latest from Iran (12 December): A 78-Year-Old Academic is Imprisoned for Writing the Supreme Leader

1602 GMT: A Death in Detention. Human rights activists claim participants in the 40th day memorial for blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died on 3 November under interrogation in Evin Prison, have been beaten, with several arrested.

Security officers reportedly raided the services at the Imam Mohamad Taghi Shrine in Robat Karim,, near Tehran.

Beheshti's mother was said to have sustained leg and knee injuries. Beheshti’s brother was detained for two hours.

1142 GMT: Budget Watch. President Ahmadinejad told reporters on Wednesday, "As regards the next year budget, we are moving to decrease the share of oil revenues to the minimum as much as possible. An oil-based budget is not reasonable since we are a great and advanced country and will decrease our spending."

Ahmadinejad's statement reinforces the declaration by leading MP Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam that "the government wants to decrease the...state budget's reliance on oil exports to one million barrels a day."

Iran exported 2.2 million barrels per day of oil in 2011, but exports have fallen as low at 860,000 bpd this year and are projected at 834,000 bpd for December.

Ahmadinejad did not explain how the budget could be supported with a drop of more than 50% in oil revenues, except to say the Government has cut a large amount of unnecessary spending and is focusing on "key and necessary" expenditure. Iranian officials have also pronounced that there will be a significant boost in non-oil exports, but it is unclear how this --- given that more than 80% of Iran's export revenue has come from oil --- will make up for the fall in income.

1122 GMT: Economy Watch. The Customs Authority reports that, despite restricted access of importers to foreign currency and the weakened Rial, there has been no significant change in imports.

0919 GMT: Economy and Politics Watch. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has assured, "Americans imagined that Iran's economy will be crippled through sanctions after a while, but this did not happen." He continued:

Now [the Americans] have made use of the sanctions in, as they say, the field of public diplomacy, but if we can grow national production, we will be able to dissuade them [from continuing].

Larijani's assurance contains a hidden challenge, however. Last week the Speaker said Iran was in an "economic drought" --- so if sanctions haven't caused this, who or what has? Eyes turn to the Government's management and policies....

0910 GMT: Elections Watch. Parliament has modified the proposed legislation setting requirements for Presidential candidates. The mandate that a candidate is between 45 and 75 is gone. So are the conditions of a graduate degree and the endorsements of 100 members of “the religious and political elite”.

The watering-down of the legislation removes formal barriers to candidates such as President Ahmadinejad's controversial right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

In practice, however, the effect is to leave control of the electoral process in the hands of the Guardian Council, which approves or rejects proposed candidates. Politicians like Rahim-Mashai may not be able to win that approval. On the other side of the political spectrum, almost all significant reformists are likely to be blocked by the Council.

0840 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The European Parliament has presented the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience in absentia to lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and filmmaker Jafar Panahi.

Sotoudeh, who recently ended a 49-day hunger strike, is in Evin Prison serving a six-year sentence. Panahi is under perpetual threat of having to serve a six-year term and is banned from leaving the country.

Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, whom Sotoudeh has defended in court, accepted the award: "These two empty seats symbolize the repression of the Iranian regime with its citizens."

Ebadi read a thank-you letter from Sotoudeh, who dedicated the prize "to all the political prisoners of Iran and the world": "The struggle for human rights will not end, even though they take us to jail. The torch of freedom will never go out."

Filmmaker Costa Gavras read the thank you text from Panahi dedicated the prize to "all the anonymous fighters for freedom, to all those who are fighting for peace in the whole world".

0820 GMT: Senior officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency will hold talks today with Iranian officials in the long-running discussion of an agreement over inspection and supervision.

Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts heads a seven-member technical delegation. The Iranian group will include its IAEA envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said that a deal was imminent, but it was sidelined amid stalemate in high-level talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers over Tehran's uranium enrichment. The IAEA last met with the Iranians on 24 August, in a discussion in Vienna.

Since then, the headline issue --- fed by Western diplomats --- has been the question of access to the Parchin military base. US and European officials allege that the Iranians are using a high-explosive container there in important research and development of a military use for enriched uranium.

State outlet Press TV writes, "The UN nuclear agency’s delegation is not scheduled to visit Iran’s nuclear facilities." It says nothing about Parchin.


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