Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (29 February): Playing the Numbers Game

Nikahang Kowsar "Defrosting the Elections" --- His journalist to the Supreme Leader, "Haji, be careful that your beard doesn't get burned!"

1829 GMT: All the President's Men. The one-year prison sentence of Ali Akbar Javanfekr, President Ahmadienjad’s media advisor, was confirmed today by an appellate court.

Javanfekr, who is also editor of Iran newspaper, was charged with “insulting the Supreme Leader” because of comments on his blog. He was also given a five-year ban from political activity.

1818 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Analyst Robin Mills notes the story, mentioned in Tuesday's Live Coverage, that Iran will accept gold rather than foreign currency with other countries because of sanctions. He adds, "Also willing to be paid in rice, used socks, etc."

1710 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. The Supreme Leader has said that, despite six months of propaganda against Iran's elections, Iranians will come out Friday to "slap imperialism harshly in the face".

1705 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Tuesday that Ankara is prepared to host nuclear discussions in April, if Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) agree.

Davutoğluadded that he will discuss the issue with Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Foreign Minister, in the next few days.

1659 GMT: At the Movies. Blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, serving a 15-year prison sentence, has sent a message to Oscar-winning director Ashgar Farhadi: "Today all Iranian cities and even Evin Prison have become the House of Cinema."

The House of Cinema, Iran's leading organisation for filmmakers, was banned late last year by the Ministry of Culture.

1656 GMT: Hunger Strike Watch. Detained dissident Mehdi Khazali, on the 51st day of his hunger strike, has written Judge Pir Abbasi, "I will continue to end the puppetry called a court."

1654 GMT: Elections Watch. MP Morteza Agha Tehrani, the head of the principlist Unity Front in Friday's vote, has put out the message that people must feel their ballots are counted. He said that all must be beware of sedition, the deviant current, and "those silent about both".

1644 GMT: Not-Really-A-Doctor Watch. Daneshjoo News asserts that Hadi Moghadassi, the chair of Parliament's Social Committee, has a fake Ph.D., handed out by a "Commonwealth Open University" in Britain.

1544 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Sources put out the story that the US Treasury Department disrupted a Dubai-based banking operation claimed to be a primary conduit for evading international sanctions and processing Iran's oil sales.

The Noor Islamic Bank is partly owned by the local government of Dubai; its chairman is the son of Dubai's ruler.

In mid-December, Noor agreed to close off what is said to be Iran's single-largest channel for repatriating foreign-currency oil receipts, processing up to 60% of Iran's $80 billion per year in foreign oil sales by late 2011.

1534 GMT: Elections Watch. Peyke Iran posts a report --- perhaps true, perhaps mischievous --- about problems for President Ahmadinejad's sister Parvin. The website claims that she has received a cold welcome for his Parliamentary campaign in Garmsar, with only 15 people at her meetings and some of them interrupting with critical questions.

1238 GMT: The Best Defence is a Giant Umbrella. Amidst the chatter of a possible Israeli attack on Tehran, Minister of Defence Ahmad Vahidi has assured, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has many hidden capabilities which are kept for rainy days. We have not yet revealed all our capabilities."

1230 GMT: On the Air. Despite jamming by the regime and harassment of its staff and their families, BBC Persian almost doubled its audience between 2009 and 2011.

The channel's audience rose to 6 million from 3.1 million.

1218 GMT: Elections Watch. Rudaw notes the Kurdish candidates who have been disqualified by the Guardian Council, including former MP Abdullah Sohrabi and lawyer Massoud Shamenzadeh, who represents political prisoners.

1215 GMT: Scare Story of the Day. US officials, in advance of a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, have been carrying out the balancing act of putting out stories about the Iranian threat while trying to hold back West Jerusalem from a military assault on Tehran. So we get this in The New York Times today:

American officials who have assessed the likely Iranian responses to any attack by Israel on its nuclear program believe that Iran would retaliate by launching missiles on Israel and terrorist-style attacks on United States civilian and military personnel overseas.

While a missile retaliation against Israel would be virtually certain, according to these assessments, Iran would also be likely to try to calibrate its response against American targets so as not to give the United States a rationale for taking military action that could permanently cripple Tehran’s nuclear program.

1200 GMT: Be Careful What You Say. Ivan Watson of CNN reports from Tehran, "1 man tells me, 'I will vote for someone honest...for someone who follows the path of the Supreme Leader.' 2nd man: 'I'm not going to vote so I'm afraid to talk about the election.' 3rd man:Asghar Farhadi's Oscar win was "AWESOME!"

Then Watson writes, "After 15 minutes of interviews on Tehran street, Basiji militia detained us. We spent 3 hours in police station before being released."

0819 GMT: Campus Watch. Farhad Daneshjoo, the brother of the Minister of Science and Higher Education, has officially been named as President of Islamic Azad University, but the battle for control of the private campuses continues.

Azad's trustees, supporting former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, have called the appointment by President Ahmadinejad "illegal".

An EA correspondent notes that the protest may be in vain. A representative of the Supreme Leader, Vahid Haghanian, was present at Tuesday's introductory meeting with Daneshjoo, covered extensively by State broadcaster IRIB.

0810 GMT: Playing the Numbers Game (Economy Edition). After 3 1/2 years without official statistics on growth, numbers have appeared.

Iran's Statistics Center said last week that the economy had grown 6.5%, while the Central Bank reported on Tuesday that the rate is 5.8%.

The difference in those two numbers appears to be between growth including oil revenues, and growth excluding them. However, other questions are being raised --- observers are noting that President Ahmadinejad claimed 10% growth in July 2011 and said this month that it is 7%.

0759 GMT: Elections Watch. A boost for Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Tuesday, as the seminaries of Qom announced their support for him as a local MP.

A delegation visited the home of Larijani's father and said, "As the deviant current within the Government has started to attack Ali Larijani as a person 'silently involved in sedition', we see as our responsibility to support him."

Larijani commented, "Unfortunately for some people in charge, attacking others is a hobby.”

The news is not so good for the pro-Ahmadinejad Monotheism and Justice Front (MJF), which suddenly appeared this weekend. One candidate, Hossein Mozaffar, has protested against his name appearing on the list and rejected any connection with the faction --- Mozaffar is actually with the Unity Front, the main principlist group.

MP Hamid Katouzian, the spokesmen for the breakaway principlist "Voice of the Nation", complained that the MJF had claimed the candidacy of Irandokht Fayaz, who is actually with his faction: "Surely candidates in our list would not be a supporter of Ahmadinejad”.

0755 GMT: Re-Assurance of the Day. Iran Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam says that security forces are on stand-by to guard against people in towns throwing stones at candidates' cars.

0725 GMT: The Last Election. The sharpest comment in campaign debates this week may have come from someone who is not running for Parliament. Prominent academic Sadegh Zibakalam, facing Government supporter Hamid Rasaei at Tehran Azad University, condemned the regime's approach after the 2009 Presidential election. He said, "Rasaei and the rest of the supporters of Ahmadinejad talk about the law, but after 22 Khordad 1388 [12 June 2009], when students were protesting, a group of organised people attacked and arrested them like enemies."

Zibakalam said of detained Presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, "My view on Mousavi did not changed before and after the sedition. I know him as pious and responsible towards people, and Ibelieve that, if a country has a law, it should arrange a trial and convict him before putting him under house arrest.”

0720 GMT: Warning of the Day. Khodnevis reports that an SMS text is circulating on phones in Tehran, "If turnout [for Friday's elections] is less than 50%, the US will attack Iran."

0600 GMT: With two days to go before the Parliamentary elections, no one within the regime is projecting which factions --- the Supreme Leader's supporters? President Ahmadinejad's men? a "break-away" conservative bloc? --- among the 3444 candidates and 230 political groups will triumph.  To do so would admit to the intense political in-fighting around that campaign.

Instead, the proclamations are about the turnout. Some in the regime have proclaimed that 80% of the electorate will vote, despite calls for a boycott by reformists and the Green Movement; generally, a benchmark of 60% is being put out.

The Tehran Times gives the "objective" assessment:

According to an opinion poll conducted this week, about 37 percent of respondents in Tehran said they would be voting in the election. 

Many political analysts say that the results will lead to run-off elections for some of Tehran’s 30 parliamentary seats.

The poll shows a 7 percent increase in the number of potential voters in Tehran in comparison to last week, and it is predicted that the figure will reach 40 percent by Friday, which is election day.

In recent parliamentary elections, the average turnout in Tehran was about 30 percent.

According to a nationwide survey, more than 57 percent of eligible voters will vote in the elections.

This morning, however, another number catches my attention, one connected with the last election. Conservative MP Ali Motahari, who has emerged as a prominent foe of the President and his Government, announced in a debate that up to 50 people died in violence after the 2009 Presidential ballot. Motahari's opponent, Hamid Rasaei, trying to link Motahari to the "sedition current", said that this shameless allegation had also been put out by the BBC, Tehran's #1 enemy amongst the foreign media.


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