Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (5 March): The Election? So Far, It's a Muddle

See also Iran Opinion: Why Iranians Voted in the 2012 Elections
Iran Elections Snapshot: The #1 Subversive Moment "They're All the Same"
Iran Snap Analysis: Rearranging the Political Chairs --- What Has Changed?
The Latest from Iran (4 March): The Play-Acting of the Election

1925 GMT: On the Air. I will be on Al Jazeera English about 2110 GMT to assess the Parliamentary elections and the political situation.

1747 GMT: Oil Watch. Industry sources say India's largest customer for Iranian oil plans to cut daily imports by almost 50%.

State-run Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd could reduce imports to as little as 80,000 barrels per day from 1 April, the sources said. MRPL usually buys 150,000 bpd.

The report is further evidence that while New Delhi publicly says it will not comply with US-led, the Indian Government has privately instructed refineries to cut imports.

India, China and Japan buy almost half of Iran's estimated 2.6 million barrels per day of oil exports,

1740 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Journalist Nazanin Khosravani has been summoned to serve her six-year prison sentence for propaganda and collusion against the system.

Ali Mousavi Khalkhali, journalist & translator, has been arrested.

1730 GMT: Food Watch. European traders have said the Government Trading Corporation of Iran is in talks about buying several hundred thousand tonnes of Russian and Indian wheat.

On Thursday, the US Agriculture Department revealed that Tehran had made a rare purchase of 120,000 tonnes of American wheat to build food stockpiles.

In the last month, Iran has bought or tried to buy nearly 3 million tonnes of wheat on global markets on fears that sanctions will disrupt imports and cause bread shortages.

Iran has asked to import a million tonnes of wheat from Pakistan in a barter deal and also approached India. Tehran also bought nearly 2 million tonnes of wheat in February from Russia, Germany, Canada, Brazil, and Australia.

1630 GMT: Khatami Watch. The take-away quote from former President Mohammad Khatami's statement defending his decision to vote (see 1320 GMT) in the Parliamentary elections: “Establishing the strategy of not providing a list of candidates was never meant to include boycotting the elections. We must prove this in action so that our ill-wishers have no excuse to react and we leave room for greater understanding in order to achieve true progress for the country by stressing the rights and interests of the people.”

Our colleague Arshama3's Blog has posted a German translation.

1600 GMT: Drumbeats of War Watch. How do you know when the media chatter about an Israel attack on Iran has reached the critical point?

Possibly when Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post is back with "Live Updates On The Drumbeat Of War".

Pitney was one of the stand-out live-bloggers in the weeks after the disputed 2009 Presidential election. This time, though, there are no diversions about protests, detentions, or calls for rights and justice. The Drumbeat coverage is only about Tehran's nuclear programme, US manoeuvres with Israel, and, of course, War.

Today's highlights --- or low-lights, depending on your perspective --- include President Obama's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the "serious concerns" of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran's nuclear activity, and "a full-page ad published in the Washington Post [which] features former senior U.S. military and intelligence officials stating that military action against Iran at this stage is 'not only unnecessary, it is dangerous'".

1549 GMT: Elections Watch. More from Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar's brief press conference on the Parliamentary results (see 1405 and 1525 GMT)....

Najjar said 225 candidates had reached Parliament on the first ballot, with 130 candidates competing in a second ballot, probably in late April, for the remaining 65 remaining seats.

No details were given about the vote for the 225 victorious MPs or to support Najjar's claim of a 64% national turnout.

Meanwhile, Fars reports on the Tehran outcome, where only five candidates passed the threshold for one of the capital's 30 seats, and says 2,335,124 ballot papers were cast. Even with the conservative figure of 6.4 million registered voters, that is a 36.5% turnout, far below the official claim of 48%.

1540 GMT: Budget Diversion Watch. Opposition website Kalemeh claims that a file, alleging that the Government has failed to transfer $6 billion in oil income to national reserves, has been forwarded to the judiciary.

1533 GMT: Economy Watch. 33,000 workers have been laid off after the closure of 30 companies making balls for sport.

1525 GMT: An Inconvenient Question. Something to consider about the official claims of voter turnout on Friday....

Two hours before the polls closed on Friday night, the Ministry of Interior said 31 million ballots had been collected, for a turnout of 64.4%.

At his hit-and-run press conference today (see 1405 GMT), Minister of Interior Mustafa Mohammad Najjar said that 64% of registered voters cast ballot.

So does that mean that no one at all voted between 9 and 11 p.m. last Friday?

1425 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. A bail of 100 million Toman (about $55,000) has been fixed for Mohammad Tavasoli of the Freedom Movement>

1405 GMT: Elections Watch. Four hours after the official declaration of Parliamentary results was due, Minister of Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar shows up. He says, "Turnout is 64 percent and more details will be published later." And he leaves.

1355 GMT: Execution Watch. Fars is reporting that the Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the Iranian-American accused of spying for the CIA.

Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said, "The supreme court nullified the execution sentence against Amir Mirza Hekmati and sent it to an affiliate court."

Hekmati was detained last September and charged in December, accused of entering Iran to collect information on political, intelligence, and military matters.

1320 GMT: Khatami Watch. Back from a break to find the explanation from former President Mohammad Khatami of why he voted in Friday's elections, despite setting conditions on participation by reformist candidates.

Khatami insisted on national reconciliation and a return to the Constitution, while maintaining that he never intended a boycott of the vote.


0730 GMT: Conference Watch. Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini Beheshti is one of the most celebrated figures of the Islamic Revolution alongside Ayatollah Khomeini. He led Iran's judiciary after the Revolution until his assassination in 1981.

So it is not surprising that a conference, "Analysing Economic, Political and Social Thoughts of Martyr Ayatollah Dr. Beheshti", was to be held in Qom today. It is notable, however, that the gathering, with more than 25 professors and scholars giving papers, has been cancelled.

Security forces had banned Beheshti's children, including Alireza Beheshti --- a key advisor to Mir Hossein Mousavi and a political detainee after the 2009 election --- from attending. After negotiations, it was agreed that the children could attend, but could not give papers, and the conference would be after the Parliamentary elections. Suddenly, however, authorities called off the event.

0725 GMT: Khatami Watch. Reformist activist Fakhrosadat Mohtashamipour, after visiting her detained husband, prominent reformist Mostafa Tajzadeh, has said, “Even though our refusing to vote was logical, it’s our duty to respect [former Preisdent Mohammad] Khatami. I’m sure Khatami had a reason for voting. Khatami is great human capital for this nation and insulting him is insulting all of us.”

She added my husband was informed about defeat of Resistance front, Mesbah Yazdi Students and Saeed Imami’s close friends.

Conservative Hassan Ghafouri Fard has paid a barbed compliment to Khatami, "I think Khatami has made a wise decision. He has realised that boycotting the election will have a negative effect for him. No one forces him to vote, but to continue his political career, he had to participate in the election. Anyhow I’d like to congratulate him for this decision."

0720 GMT: Elections Watch. A bit of deception from Khabar Online, the outlet of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani....

The website says that, of the 163 MPs elected so far, only six are from the Islamic Constancy/Resistance Front, led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.

What Khabar forgets to mention is the large group of elected candidates who ran on the slate of both the Constancy Front and the Unity Front, which includes Larijani.

Far from coincidentally, Mesbah Yazdi's objection to working with Larijani was one of the reasons why the Constancy Front would not join the push for a "unified" slate of conservative and principlist candidates.

0630 GMT: Politics Watch. The Assembly of Experts, the body nominally overseeing all Iranian officials including the Supreme Leader, will meet tomorrow. The three speakers will be Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on the economic situation and sanctions; Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eji on the $2.6 billion bank fraud; and Ali Akbar Velayati, the Supreme Leader's advisor, on the "Islamic Awakening".

Apart from the opening ceremony, recorded by the press, the meeting is behind closed doors.

0550 GMT: Elections Watch. Amidst the muddle over the vote and the counting, a couple of possible explanations pointing to confusion rather than conspiracy....

There has been a lot of Internet chatter over this footage from State TV. The head of the Elections Commission, Soulat Mortazavi, appears to say that the national turnout, from the Ministry of Interior is just over 34% before correcting himself and giving the official figure of 64%.

An innocent stumble? A Freudian slip, pointing to the exaggeration of the turnout? Or could Mortazavi have been thinking of the actual turnout from Tehran (see 0510 GMT) before correcting himself with the claimed national figure?

Then there was the flutter about officials deleting 2.5 million voters from Tehran's rolls, allegedly in an effort to boost claimed turnout.

There were 8.8 million voters in Tehran and Alborz, treated as one area, in 2008. This year, however, Tehran and Alborz were split. So could the total of 6.4 million voters for Tehran simply be the outcome of the separation, rather than a deliberate manipulation of the electoral roll?

0510 GMT: Deliberate outcome or confusion? Three days after the Parliamentary vote in Iran and there are still as many questions as answers.

The straightforward story-line on Sunday was that 163 of the 290 MPs have been chosen. This, however, gives us little idea of the outcome because Iranian outlets were not giving the affilitiation or any other information about the winning candidates.

One outlet with details, the "hard-line" Raja News, has about 1/3 of the seats being won by "independents". If true, that unsettles the narrative that the election has been dominated by the Unity Front, set up to bring together all conservatives and principlists, and the Islamic Constancy/Resistance Front, which refused to join the effort.

The explanation could be that the "independents" are actually part of the Steadfastness Front, linked to Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaie. Raja News does not list the faction, and another report said that the Front won almost half of the seats that had been declared.

It could be that another political force is behind the "independents" --- in the weeks before the election, a prominent rumour was that the camp of President Ahmadinejad and his advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai would smuggle MPs into the Majlis under that label, thus avoiding scrutiny by the Guardian Council.

Or this could just be a disparate collection of individuals.

The picture in Tehran is no clearer. While the official count is not released until later today, Iranian media put out claimed results last night. One striking note was that only five of the 30 seats were allocated on the first-round ballot, with other candidates, including prominent MPs of all factions, failing to reach the 25% threshold.

But here is another mystery. The reports said that just over 2.2 million ballots had been counted, with just under 2 million valid. 

Given that the declared number of registered voters in Tehran for this election is 6.4 million, the turnout --- if these are the final figures --- would be 34.4%. However, in its proclamation of the "slap in the face" to the enemy, Iranian officials, including the Minister of Interior, have said the turnout in the capital was 48%.

Another bureaucratic muddle or the exposure of the propaganda of this vote? We will keep looking for answers.

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