Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (25 February): A Far-from-Simple Election

A man sweeps up discarded flyers for the Parliamentary campaign

See also Iran Snapshot: Expecting an Unhappy New Year in Tehran
Iran Analysis: Elections and Power --- This is More Than The Supreme Leader's Show
Iran Document & Snap Analysis: The IAEA Report on Tehran's Nuclear Programme
The Latest from Iran (24 February): Here a Deviant Current, There a Deviant Current

1815 GMT: We are taking a Saturday night break, but we will be back at 0600 GMT with the latest news.

1735 GMT: Bank Fraud Watch. Voice of America has posted video of Amir Mansour Khosravi, the man at the centre of the $2.6 billion bank fraud, detailing bribes of 600 billion Toman (then about $500 million) to officials from Transport, Industry, & other Ministries, as well as banks.

1725 GMT: Elections Watch. Digarban notes conservative and principlist bloggers who are calling for an election boycott next Friday, including Ahmad Najmi from Qom, Mohammad Saleh Meftah of "Tribune of the Disenfranchised", and Hesameddin Motahari of "Ketab-e Esha".

The pro- Ahmadinejad "Armanshahr" (Utopia) and "Khat-khati" (Criss-cross Lines) blogs also doubt that the Parliamentary vote will have any value for people.

1555 GMT: Currency Watch. Mehr argues that the Government's "parallel action" on the Iranian currency is endangering the Central Bank's policies. The website adds that currency secrets should not be given to lower-ranking officials in the Government.

1545 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Mojtaba Zolnour, the former Supreme Leader representative to the Revolutionary Guards, has said the sentencing of Hashemi Rafsanjani's children benefits the former President, as people will feel there is no difference between the sons and daughters of officials and those of other people.

Activist Faezeh Hashemi, Rafsanjani's daughter, has been given a six-month prison term for "propaganda against the regime", while his son Mehdi Hashemi, a Ph.D. student in Britain, has been threatened with prosecution if he returns to Iran.

1455 GMT: Elections Watch. Former MPs who now live abroad have asked people to stay away from the "unhealthy" elections next Thursday.

The spokesman of the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, has said that fewer than five of the 35 MPs barred from standing for re-election have been disqualified because of the $2.6 billion bank fraud.

1445 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Iranian media are headlining the arrests of "BBC Persian agents" in the Revolutionary Guards operation "Eye of the Fox" against "organised crime".

The media did not give the names of the accused, but RAHANA has identified three of them, all arrested in January, as bloggers/journalists Parastou Dokouhaki and Marzieh Rasouli and Sahameddin Bourghani, the editor of the Iranian Diplomacy website.

1355 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Daneshjoo News reports that human rights activist Kouhyar Goudarzi has been sentenced to six years in prison by a Revolutionary Court.

Goudarzi, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was seized in July and charged with "propaganda" and "assembly and collusion against the system".

1345 GMT: Economy Watch. Thomas Erdbrink of The Washington Post offers a first-hand view, "Iran Elections Underscore Split Between Leaders, Middle Class":

“In my world, the currency has lost its value, our oil is under sanctions, we are weak, and I feel humiliated,” said Amir, 28, a watch seller who did not want to be further identified for fear of retribution. “But in their world, the country is strong, the economy is booming, and our future is glorious. We are on different planets.”

He added, “Voting will not change that, the past has proven.”

We have more in a separate feature by Saeed Kamali Dehghan of The Guardian, "Iran Snapshot: Expecting an Unhappy New Year in Tehran".

1104 GMT: More Sanctions Watch. SWIFT, the world's biggest electronic banking system, is ready to block Iran's Central Bank from transferring funds, according to a US congressional aide who was at a briefing by the Belgium-based group earlier this week.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication had said last week that it was likely to cut off Tehran to comply with European Union and US sanctions.

Expelling the Central Bank, which acts as the clearinghouse for Tehran's oil revenues, would halt Iran's most powerful vehicle to move funds electronically.

1058 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Chinese and Japanese groups insuring Iranian ships against risks such as oil spills are being limited by European Union sanctions.

Because the Japan Ship Owners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association and the China Shipowners Mutual Assurance Association are reinsured through the London-based International Group of P&I Clubs, they are indirectly affected by EU sanctions approved on 23 January. The two groups are the largest insurers for ships in their respective countries, the two biggest importers of Iranian oil.

“The question now is, will the Chinese and Japanese governments get involved and subsidize insurance or guarantee insurance,” Mike Roderick, a partner at international trade law firm Clyde & Co. in London, said. “It’s more difficult for Japan because of its ties to the U.S. But China might.”

The EU ban on the purchase, transportation, financing, and insurance of Iranian oil affects Asian importers because 95% of the world’s tankers are insured by the 13 members of the International Group. Even if Beijing says publicly that it will not reduce imports, the EU sanctions make fewer ships available to load the cargoes from Iran.

1048 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Photographer Tahmineh Monzavi has been arrested.

0818 GMT: CyberWatch. Tabnak reports that, in rankings for Internet speed, Iran is 155nd out of 172 countries.

0813 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Grand Ayatollah Bayat Zanjani has appealed to detained physician and blogger Mehdi Khazali to end his 48-day hunger strike.

Bayat Zanjani said the indifference of officials to the case of Khazali, serving a 14-year prison sentence for his dissent, is "painful".

0800 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Fars reports that President Ahmadinejad, challenging former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has signed the mandate appointing Farhad Daneshjoo as the head of the Islamic Azad University.

Rafsanjani had held out against the appointment of Daneshjoo, the brother of the Minister of Science and Higher Education. The former President, who oversaw the creation in the 1990s of Iran's largest chain of private universities, has been challenged for control by Ahmadinejad over the last two years.

0730 GMT: Clerical Intervention. Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani, in a meeting with a group from Qom's judiciary, has said, “The judiciary has to be completely independent and powerful to the extent that it can summon and put on trial anyone in any position.”

So is Safi Golpayegani challenging President Ahmadinejad, who said last summer that there was a "red line" against prosecution of his advisors and Cabinet Ministers? Could the cleric be referring to Vice President Hamid Baghaei, charged with offences but never questioned, and Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, questioned in his office rather than in court over alleged involvement in a major insurance fraud?

MP Elyas Naderan, a persistent critic of corruption in Government, echoed Safi Golpayegani, "The security of a country whose officials are selected by the vote of people depends on the trust of the people in the Government and their vote....Therefore it is the duty of the parliament to stand up against the corruption of the government officials."

Naderan continued, "The amount of this embezzlement is not important, what is important is that this embezzlement was carried out by individuals who were or had influence in the Government....Unfortunately, due to the approach of the Ahmadinejad Government, the job of the next Government will be very difficult."

0725 GMT: Elections Watch. A video report from Euronews on the Parliamentary campaign in Tehran features a young man who says he will not vote because of economic problems: "The Government and MPs don't care about us."

Digarban has a complementary perspective, noting the lack of enthusiasm among doctors, academics, and workers for campaign meetings.

0718 GMT: All-Is-Well Alert. Deputy Minister of Energy Mohammad Behzad has said that Iran will export up to $2 billion of electricity to the UAE, Qatar, and Oman via subsea cables.

Last week, Iran Offshore Oil Company (IOOC) signed a $3.8 billion deal with Iran’s Power Projects Management Company (MAPNA) for the development of the Persian Gulf's Forouz B gas field and an associated gas-fired power project, with most of the output exported to the Persian Gulf Arab states.

The development plan, to be completed within 5 1/2 years, aims to produce one billion cubic feet of gas, 10,000 barrels of condensates, and 3,000 megawatts per day of power in the first phase.

0710 GMT: Press Watch. Four journalists working for Press TV, including British nationals Nicholas Davies and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson have been arrested in Libya.

The quartet were detained by members of the Misurata Brigade on Tuesday and are being held in Tripoli.

0700 GMT: Six days before the vote for Parliamentary seats, we begin this morning with a look at the international coverage fleeing the reality of Iranian politics with the simple assertion that Ayatollah Khamenei is ruling "a one-party system": "Elections and Power --- This is More Than The Supreme Leader's Show".

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