Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (5 February): The Coup Within --- The Sequel

See also Iran Opinion: Why Do Thousands of Women Want to Be Ninjas?
The Latest from Iran (4 February): Missing the Story on the Supreme Leader

Rezaei, Qalibaf, Larijani2225 GMT: Security Watch. Writer and human rights activist Yousef Azizi Banitaraf has said Iranian security forces have arrested 50 people over the past two weeks in Arab neighbourhoods in the southwestern province of Khuseztan.

Banitaraf claimed two of the detainees, Nasser Alboshokeh Derafshan and Mohammad Kaabi, were killed while in custody. The arrests, which have taken place in Shoosh, Ahwaz, and Hamidieh, were apparently prompted by youth writing slogans on public walls, calling for a boycott of March's Parliamentary elections.

"The security forces are telling elders of the tribes in the region to bring people to the voting booths, and the young people are opposed to this," Banitaraf said.

1745 GMT: Imprisoning the Press. Fereshteh Ghazi reports on the latest wave of arrests of journalists, including Reza Jelodarzadeh, the editor-in-chief of the recently banned Sobh-e Azadi magazine.

1735 GMT: Warning the Supreme Leader. Former MP Emad Afrough, who caused a stir last month by saying on State TV that people should be able to question the Supreme Leader has put out another statement.

Afrough started with the assurance that the Supreme Leader "is not the Shah and does not claim to be one"; however, he then said, "If the system cannot be criticised, it will rot from within." He called for a re-evaluation of Revolutionary principles.

An EA correspondent commented, "Afrough is warning Khamenei not to continue like this because it would create more opposition and an uncontrollable situation."

1710 GMT: CyberWar Watch. Expatriate activists and journalists report that the Iranian Cyber Army has launched a widespread hacking of their G-mail accounts.

1644 GMT: Health Watch. Hossein Ali Shahryari, the head of Parliament's Health Committee, has warned that drug reserves are running out. He expressed fears for a two-tier medical system, with wealthy Iranians finding supplies but others going without care.

Mehr reports that the currency crisis has led to 80% inflation in the health sector.

1639 GMT: Ahmadinejad Watch. MP Mostafa Reza Hosseini has said the plan to interrogate the President has been submitted to Speaker of Parliament Larijani. The MP said Ahmadinejad has one month to appear before the Majlis.

1625 GMT: All-Is-Well. Minister of Agriculture Sadegh Khalilian has said sanctions have had no effect on grain imports, assuring that Iran has good reserves and domestic production is up 10%.

Last week, ten ships with up to 400,000 tonnes of grain were unable to off-load because of problems over payments amidst sanctions. Five of the ships have now diverted to Kuwait, the UAE, and Singapore.

1621 GMT: Oil Watch. Karim Qoddousi of Parliament's National Security Committee has said that, if the Government does not cut off oil exports to Greece, Italy, Spain, and France within one week, the Majlis will adopt an urgent bill for the ban.

1601 GMT: Budget Watch. Leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli has criticised the Government's 2012/13 budget, submitted 57 days late, as a muddle "breaking all rules", with no data on support payments for or income from subsidy cuts.

Tavakoli also said the Government's access to National Development Funds is illegal, as these are for the private sector, and violates orders by the Supreme Leader.

1557 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). Iranian officials have banned travel by train to Syria.

The step follows a warning to pilgrims not to go overland to Syria, unless they are part of an official tour group. Thirty-five Iranians have been abducted in Syria in the last two months.

1551 GMT: Press Watch. Earlier we noted the statement of prominent reformist Mohammad Reza Khatami (see 1410 GMT) that true reformists will not participate in March's Parliamentary elections. We added that Khatami had rejected the word "boycott", probably to avoid detention.

Now the daily newspaper Roozegar has been banned again for the interview. Its "crime" was to quote Khatami, "We will not accept orders".

Roozegar, which only emerged from a ban in January, has been suspended for a month.

1550 GMT: Sanctions Watch. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a firm ally of Tehran, has admitted that sanctions are hampering Caracas' trade with Iran.

1410 GMT: Reformist Watch. Prominent reformist Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the former President, has said that the reformists, believing in free elections, will not boycott the Parliamentary vote in March but simply will not participate.

Khatami, who probably avoided the word "boycott" because the regime has threatened to detain anyone making such a call, said those who are running for election are not reformists: "Why don't they use their social power to stage rallies and meetings?"

1405 GMT: Currency Watch (with a Twist). The manager of the leading currency website Mesghal has been arrested for causing turmoil over the exchange rate, as well as membership of the Baha'i.

1200 GMT: Oil Watch. Still no sign of the threatened Parliamentary legislation to cut oil exports to Europe immediately, striking back at the European Union's cut-off of imports from 1 July, but "students" have announced they will rally in front of the Majlis on Monday for a halt to the exports.

1156 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said that President Assad is "a good and healthy man" and an attack on Syria will set the region on fire.

1153 GMT: Rumour of the Day. Pro-Ahmadinejad blogger "Super-Deviant" has linked the son of Iran's Prosecutor General, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, to the $2.6 billion bank fraud.

1139 GMT: The Coup Within. Back to our opening story, with President Ahmadinejad threatening to play two 45-minute audio tapes of a meeting in which leading politicians schemed against his Government....

We have found some background to our analysis that the politicians in question are Supreme Leader Ali Larijani, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, and Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council. From Press TV on 16 November 2008:

Iran's Majlis says there is no Larijani-Qalibaf-Rezaei alliance working to challenge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 elections.

In a Sunday statement, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) rejected reports of a meeting held by Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei, and Mayor of Tehran Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.

Media reports earlier suggested that the three senior Iranian officials had met to discuss forming an alliance to guarantee victory over the incumbent president in the country's upcoming presidential election - scheduled for June 12, 2009.

When asked by IRNA about the alleged gathering, Rezaei confirmed that a meeting had been held but only to discuss 'domestic and international issues', adding that no electoral issues had been brought up.

0851 GMT: Currency Watch. Etedaal makes a significant point about the currency crisis. While most attention was on the value of the Iranian Rial vs. the US dollar, other foreign currencies strengthened far more. The Chinese yuan and Kuwaiti and Iraqi dinars all soared in their levels against the Iranian currency.

A year ago, the yuan was worth 1750 Rials. Last month, it reached 3300, an increase of almost 200% in value.

An EA correspondent notes one consequence, as those holding yuan and those importing Chinese goods into Iran profited. In April 2010, prominent businessman Assadollah Asgaroladi bought shares in large Chinese banks.

0819 GMT: Cardboard Khomeini Watch. The late Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson Hojatoleslam Morteza Eshraghi has criticised Wednesday's display at a military ceremony of a cardboard cut-out of his grandfather, recreating his 1979 return from France. Esraghi said organisers should apologise for "this huge mistake".

0815 GMT: Elections Watch. MP Fazel Mousavi has claimed that, "in a certain city", accounts of candidates have been closed because of promises of large payouts to voters. Mousavi continued that candidates were reportedly spending 1 to 3 billion Toman ($550,000 to $1.65 million) for elections: "This happens when no strong parties and media exist."

0810 GMT: Currency Watch. One piece of apparent good news for the Government --- gold prices reportedly fell by more than 10% on Saturday, with old gold coin now at 718,000 Toman (about $400).

0800 GMT: Economy Watch. Minister of Economy Shamseddin Hosseini has blamed the Central Bank for the "continuation of currency turmoil". He pointed to sanctions, rather than mismanagement by the Government, as the cause of the crisis.

Hosseini may struggle to get his message accepted. Aftab has challenged the Minister over his earlier statement that the Iranian Rial's rise to 100,000:1 vs. the US dollar --- the Rial currently stands at about 18000:1 --- would not affect the economy. The website asked Hosseini to visit the Bazaar and see the escalation in prices for goods. Aftab continued that the Government "has no interest in controlling inflation" and failed to control the currency.

Emad Hosseini of Parliament's Energy Committee is not forgiving, either: he has alleged that the Government failed to transfer $12 billion of its oil income in 2010/11 into foreign exchange reserves.

0750 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Kamran Daneshjoo, minister of Science and Research, has criticised former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for not signing the mandate which names Daneshjoo's brother Farhad as the head of Islamic Azad University.

Farhad Daneshjoo's appointment by the President has been seen as the latest blow in the fight between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani for control of Iran's largest chain of private universities.

Kamran Daneshjoo, claiming that five members of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution had visited Rafsanjani to persuade him to accept the appointment, said, "The students cannot bear this situation and Hashemi Rafsanjani must sign the mandate without any precondition."

Rasool Jafarian, the head of Parliament's library and a critic of President Ahmadinejad, has warned of an effort to remove Rafsanjani's name from history books, including those of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War.

0735 GMT: Elections Watch. News of a setback for Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in the manoeuvring for the March Parliamentary election....

The Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom has officially chosen Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani as their first candidate. The Jebhe Paydari party, affiliated with Mesbah Yazdi, has been trying to block or curb candidates linked to Larijani and to Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf in Qom and in the capital.

An EA correspondent believes that the Society's decision was driven by the support of two key members, Ayatollah Amini and Ayatollah Ostadi, for Larijani.

Meanwhile, Seyyed Hassan Naqavi, a member of Parliament's National Security Committee has said that Iranians with dual nationality should be fired from Government positions and barred from standing for election.

0710 GMT: We opened on Saturday with the challenge that the significance in events in Iran lay not in international confrontation, but in the tensions within the political system:

Most of the international coverage of the Supreme Leader's Friday Prayer in Tehran was incomplete, narrowed into presentation of the Islamic Republic v. the US-led "West"....There is no reference --- not a single one --- to affairs inside Iran.

Yesterday, we received an unexpected endorsement of that analysis. Unexpected, because we doubt the person who offered the support is a big fan of EA.

According to Aftab, President Ahmadinejad has said at a private meeting with politicians, "I have two 45-minute tapes on my desk from a political meeting on 8 Bahman 1388 (28 January 2010) that prove sedition against the Government and [Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar] Rahim-Mashai.

I believe that, with that assertion, Ahmadinejad bore out the truth of a story we posted on 23 January 2010, outlining a discussion between Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, and Mohsen Rezaei, the Secretary of the Expediency Council and 2009 Presidential candidate. The three men, joined then or in following days by the key MP Ahmad Tavakoli, the cousin of Larijani, were considering plans for the removal of the President from office.

Those plans were checked by the Green Movement's failure to mobilise public opposition on 11 February, the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, with Ahmadinejad giving a defiant speech to the crowd in Azadi Square in Tehran. 

But, of course, a President is unlikely to forget the move against him, and his opponents are unlikely to give up the fight. Larijani, within the limits of a position precluding an open break with Ahmadinejad, has led a Majlis often criticising the Government. Rezaei's jabs come out through his publications. And Tavakoli is the point man, deriding Ahmadinejad and his Ministers over their mismanagement of the economy.

So, a month before the Parliamentary elections that will re-shape the balance of power within the Iranian system, Ahmadinejad put out his challenge: come and get me, if you dare.

Will they dare? That is a story worth far more newsprint and bytes than today's meandering of the other "Will they dare?" --- the one about an Israeli military strike on Tehran.

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