Iran Election Guide

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The Latest from Iran (7 March): "The People Are Not Happy"

See also Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society, from the Elections to Abuses to a "Documentary"
Iran Snap Analysis: The Election --- Still Confusing, Still Muddled
Iran Opinion: The Hunger Strike of Mehdi Khazali
The Latest from Iran (6 March): Is Ahmadinejad in Trouble?

2133 GMT: Drumbeats of War Watch. The Associated Press, in a story eerily reminiscent of claims in February 2003 that Iraqi trucks were clearing up suspected site of weapons of mass destruction, reports:

Satellite images of an Iranian military facility show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the site, indicating that crews were trying to clean it of radioactive traces possibly left by tests of a nuclear-weapon trigger, diplomats told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Two of the diplomats said the crews may be trying to erase evidence of tests of a small neutron device used to set off a nuclear explosion. A third diplomat could not confirm that but said any attempt to trigger a so-called neutron initiator at the Parchin site could only be in the context of trying to develop nuclear arms.

The images, provided to the IAEA by member countries, are recent and constantly updated, said one of the diplomats.

The diplomats are nuclear experts accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and all asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

2113 GMT: Elections Watch. An EA reader has compiled the numbers, from a Khabar Online article, of the claimed vote in Iran's 212 constituencies. He comes up with the figure of 30,549,605 ballots.

Based on an official figure of 48,288,799 registered voters, this is a claimed turnout of 63.26%.

2036 GMT: Hunger Strike. Prominent blogger and EA colleague Persianbanoo has posted an important article:

"On day fifty of his hunger strike in Evin Ward 350, author, regime critic and Iran-Iraq war veteran, Mehdi Khazali has written a short letter to his wife on their wedding anniversary."

We have reports that #Khazali, who is now on Day 59 of the strike, was a trending topic on Twitter today. The entire letter, in English, can be read here.

1828 GMT: Elections Watch. Hannes Bode writes us with an update on the figures in our morning analysis, indicating the relatively low number of reformists going to Parliament:

After checking the sites of all the "Mardomsalari" candidates on Raja News list, I can state that many of them are either independent, locally-based candidates --- for example, one was backed by the local bazaar merchants association --- or candidates backed by Rezaei's "Istadegi" [Steadfastness Front] and even Jebhe Mottahed [Unity Front]. The number of "Mardomsalari" candidates that one might call reformists is actually below 10.

I began checking the independents, and many of them are connected to Istadegi and the other principlist lists.

1820 GMT: President v. Parliament. Contrasting signals out of Parliament for President Ahmadinejad....

On the one hand, Ahmadinejad's controversial aide Saeed Mortazavi, newly named as head of the Social Security Fund, went to the Majlis yesterday despite the protest of 15 MPs over his alleged involvement in the Kahrizak detention centre abuses of summer 2009. His plans for social security were approved by a majority of MPs.

On the other, MP Mohsen Kouhkan said Ahmadinejad's interrogation by Parliament had been set for Sunday, with an alternate date of Tuesday.

1730 GMT: Tough Talk of the Day. Iran Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam is looking to the next possible showdown with troublemakers, "We will combat all kinds of gatherings on Chaharshanbeh Suri so people can celebrate in security."

Chaharshanbeh Suri, the Fire Festival bidding farewell to winter, takes place on the night of 13 March, just before the last Wednesday of the Iranian year.

Ahmadi Moghaddam said high numbers of homemade fireworks had already been seized and suggested that a fire in the Tehran Bazaar on Tuesday might have been related to the Chahrshanbeh Suri deviants.

1620 GMT: Human Rights Watch. A report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Iran has found “a striking pattern of violations of fundamental human rights guaranteed under international law".

The report by Ahmed Shaheed criticises Tehran for its treatment of women, gays, labour activists, journalists, and ethnic minorities, as well as those who protested the disputed 2009 Presidential election.

The report concluded that Iran manipulated 2008 parliamentary elections and that its repressive activities “indicate that the authorities conspired to commit electoral fraud" in the 2009 Presidential contest. Shaheed urged the Islamic Republic to mount “a full, impartial and independent investigation into allegations” of abuses: “Egregious human rights violations that took place in the days and months following the 2009 presidential elections continue to emerge, demonstrating that breaches of the rule of law have not been addressed and that impunity continues to prevail."

The report cited the interruption of telephone text messaging services during the vote count, the “exceptional size of the winning margin nationwide”, even in the hometowns of opposition candidates, “the existence of three million more votes than ballots distributed”, and the arrest of workers from campaigns challenging President Ahmadiejad.

Shaheed said Iran executed 421 people by official count and 249 others in secret in 2011, the largest per capita figure in the world and second to China in absolute numbers. He cited “chronic” violations of due process, the absence of warrants for arrest, the use of “unlawful searches and seizures” and long detention, often in solitary confinement, without detainees being told why they were being held or being given access to a lawyer.

The report also gave detailed allegations of torture, including “electric shock, severe beatings, threats of rape and threats to detain and/or harm friends, associates and family members", as well as severe overcrowding and unhygienic prison conditions.

1530 GMT: The House Arrests. Kalemeh reports that opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard, held under strict house arrest since February 2011, have met with their daughters for the second time.

The visit took place on Sunday at the house of one of the daughters, in the presence of a large number of security agents. The daughters said Mousavi and Rahnavard were in excellent spirits.

Mousavi confirmed that he did not vote in last Friday's Parliamentary elections. He called upon everyone to remain patient and have forgiveness as a path towards justice, while maintaining his positions on political and legal matters.

Rahnavard also said she had not participated in the elections.

1458 GMT: Oil Watch. Aftab say Iranian oil production has fallen 70 thousand barrels per day over the last year. The site says the current level is 3.91 million barrels per day.

Aftab says there are are major "liquidity problems" in the sector, with "missing" investors.

The website also repeats the question in many Iranian newspapers on Tuesday: where is $4 billion in oil revenues, allegedly withheld by the Government from the national treasury?

1449 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The Wall Street Journal reports that, while accepting Iran's offer to resume nuclear discussions, the US and European powers are setting a pre-condition:

As part of the talks, the Obama administration and its diplomatic partners are preparing to ask Tehran to cease enriching uranium at the 20% purity level that is dangerously close to weapons grade, said officials briefed on the plan, in what would be considered a show of good faith after what Western diplomats allege was Iranian stalling in earlier failed rounds.

On Tuesday, the European Union's representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, said the "5+1" Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) had accepted an offer in a 14 February letter from Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran's National Security Council, to resume talks after a break of more than a year.

1009 GMT: Analysis Watch. Farideh Farhi, in a summary of Friday's Parliamentary elections, hits the mark:

The much touted competition between the two lists of conservative candidates –-- one presumably supporting Khamenei and the other indirectly supporting Ahmadinejad –-- did not really materialise. Instead, among the 225 out of 290 seats that were decided in the first round of voting, the majority of winning candidates either appeared on both lists or were rookie politicians who ran as independents. About 20 people identified with the reformist movement were also elected.

Only in Tehran is there likely to be a confrontation between the two lists in the second round of voting next month, since only five out of the slotted 30 seats allotted to the capital city were decided....

The high number of new deputies and the lack of clarity surrounding both their political views and their campaign donors make predictions regarding the political trajectory of the new parliament difficult.

0923 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amnesty International has called on the regime to overturn the 18-year prison term of prominent human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani.

Soltani's attorney and family were notified of the sentence on Sunday.

Soltani, a founder of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, was arrested in September on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system”, “setting up an illegal opposition group”, and “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security”. He also faced charges of “accepting an illegal prize and illegal earnings” relating to his acceptance of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award in 2009.

0846 GMT: Campus Watch. Farhad Daneshjoo, appointed President of Islamic Azad University after a long struggle between the camps of President Ahmadinejad and former President Rafsanjani, has appointed his brother Khosro as his deputy for the Faculty of Science and Research.

Another Daneshjoo brother, Kamran, is the Minister of Science and Higher Education.

0843 GMT: Economy Watch. Parliament's Research Centre has criticised the economic policies of the Government. It noted in particular that, as the Budget for 2012/13 is not yet set, it is not clear how the wages of Government personnel will be set.

Deputy Speader of Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar has said that the 2011/12 Budget has been extended for two months to ensure payments to Government employees.

0838 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, asked why Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not attended sessions of the Expediency Council, replied:

You should ask him because in the last six or seven years, he has only attended two or three sessions, but I think the reason for him not attending these meetings is this: in other meetings or sessions that he attends, he is in charge, but in Expediency Council he is not.

Rafsanjani, who heads the Expediency Council, continued, "In other sessions, after a very short discussion, he gives orders and make a decision himself but here he has to debate and defend and justify his views. And until he can defend his views properly, his views and opinions are not accepted."

0835 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Prominent reformist politician Ali Shakouri Rad has been sentenced to four years in prison and 10 years in exile, with a 10-year ban on political activities because of “speeches against the regime”


0735 GMT: The significance of last Friday's Parliamentary elections may be far from clear --- see our separate analysis --- but the politics in Iran has already moved to other arenas.

On Tuesday, the 86-member Assembly of Experts began a two-day meeting. At the public opening of the session, the head of the Assembly, Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, repeated the mantra,  "The reason for the high turnout in the election was because they feel that their country is being threatened by the enemies."

Far more interesting, however, were the signs of concern. Mahdavi Kani said, "Officials should know that people's participation in election does not mean they are happy with everything in the country." 

And was this an assurance, a warning, or a plea? "The Assembly of Experts must not do anything which can weaken the Supreme Leader."

Some of Mahdavi Kani's comments were echoed by MP Ali Motahari, the conservative MP who is leading the challenge to President Ahmadinejad, "The executive bodiesmust know this that the participation of people in the election does not mean they approve of what the government does. People are unhappy with the political and economic management of the country and the way the Government has dealt with its critics and opposition."

Motahari maintained that it was Parliament's right to interrogate Ahmadinejad, and he challenged the President to help the judiciary investigate his aide, Saeed Mortazavi, over the Kahrizak prison abuses and deaths, rather than appointing Mortazavi as head of the Social Security Fund.

Motahari also reached out to reformists within the system, thanks former Mohammad Khatami for voting in Friday's election to "help the unity and solidarity of the nation".

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