Iran Election Guide

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Iran Live: Nuclear Talks Grind to a Halt --- What Next?

See also Iran Special: The Stalled Nuclear Talks --- Why Tehran Cannot Give Up Its Right to Enrichment
Saturday's Iran Live: Decoding the Signals from the Nuclear Talks

2055 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Blogger and poet Reza Akvanian has been arrested.

Akvanian, a writer for the blog “Salhaye Khoobe Zendegi (Life’s Good Years)", was also detained in February 2010 by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and given a one-year prison sentence, with five years suspended, for “insulting the leader and the President” and “association with outsiders by sharing news reports".

2005 GMT: Nuclear Watch. More than 24 hours after the end of the talks in Kazakhstan, the regime has tipped off its approval of continued discussions.

The message comes from leading MP Alaeedin Boroujerdi, via State outlet Press TV, as he said the discussions on Friday and Saturday were “useful and effective”.

At the same time, Boroujerdi emphasised the Iranian line that sanctions must be lifted for any advance, and that Iran's right to enrich must be recognised.

1955 GMT: Election Watch. Mohammad Saeedi-Kia, Presidential candidate and former Housing and Urban Development Minister, has said that he has not received a proposal to join the new principlist coalition, announced Saturday (see 0902 GMT).

In his first election meeting, Saeedi-Kia said his election slogan is "peace, national unity, and international cooperation in the government of the Islamic Revolution".

Saeedi-Kia added that Iran should be governed by the principle of velayat-e faqih [guardianship of the jurist] and should support the nation".

The future government should be committed to serving the Iranian people, he said: "Iran is our home and Islam is our religion, and in Islam, there is a duty to protect [the] home."

1746 GMT: Election Watch. The Supreme Leader's advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, one of the "2+1 Committee" mandated to find a "unity" candidate for the Presidential election, has said it will not merge with the five-member coalition --- made up of senior political figures, including four Presidential hopefuls --- announced yesterday (see 0902 GMT).

1719 GMT: Election Watch (Rafsanjani Edition). As we expected, Hassan Rouhani --- member of the Expediency Council and close ally of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani --- will formally announce his Presidential candidacy on Thursday.

Rouhani is expected say he will have "operational plans for hundreds of problems".

1709 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Scott Peterson adds a couple of details in his overview of the nuclear talks --- and their failure to advance --- in Kazakhstan this weekend:

The talks were unprecedented in both their intensity and depth, say officials from both sides, and even included a direct 30- to 40-minute exchange between the top American and top Iranian diplomats across the negotiating table....

The [5+1 Powers] demanded that Iran give up enriching uranium to 20 percent --- a few technical steps away from bomb-grade --- and disable one deeply buried facility, in exchange for a partial lifting of crippling sanctions [specifically, a lift on the ban on aircraft parts and on transfer of gold and precious metals]. That proposal would be a first step toward a broader deal to ensure Iran will never make a nuclear bomb.

Iran says it needs to know that final deal will guarantee its “right” to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and an end to sanctions; Iranian officials indicated that they counter-proposed exchanging 20 percent enrichment for a lifting of all unilateral sanctions.

1309 GMT: Economy Watch. Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, a key member of Parliament's Economy Commission, has said that Iran's growth rate is now zero.

1019 GMT: Election Watch (Ahmadinejad Edition). President Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai --- a possible Presidential candidate --- has made a pointed intervention, featured on the pro-Ahmadinejad State news agency IRNA.

In a warning to Ahmadinejad's rivals, Rahim-Mashai said, "The President will deal seriously with any election irregularities."

Ahmadinejad has accused other factions, including the Supreme Leader's representatives, of wanting to "engineer" June's vote. The Ahmadinejad camp also fears that the Guardian Council will block Rahim-Mashai's candidacy.

0902 GMT: Election Watch. Some important context --- reported by EA two weeks ago --- for the major announcement (see 0615 GMT) by four Presidential candidates that they are joining forces for June's campaign....

Leading politician Habibollah Asgarouladi has been prominent since January in his call for a candidate who could appeal to a wide range of conservativs, principlists, and some reformists.

To find this candidate, Asgarouladi suggested a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 people in the coalition --- rather than the three men in the Supreme Leader's "2+1 Commmittee", which he said had been declared "too soon".

Asgarouladi, having met two of the three men on the Supreme Leader's committee --- Ayatollah Khamenei's senior advisor Ali Akbar Velayati and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf --- put forward six names.

Three of the names were the men on the "2+1 Committee": Velayati, Qalibaf, and leading MP Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The other three are all among the five-member coalition announced today --- Tehran Chamber of Commerce head Yahya Al-Eshagh and Presidential candidates Manouchehr Mottaki and Mohammad Reza Bahonar.

Here's the twist: the coalition announced today did not include any of the Supreme Leader's men.

So is this new grouping backed --- albeit quietly at this point --- by the "2+1 Committee"? Or have the conservative and principlist politicians, frustrated at the lack of progress by the Supreme Leader's men, decided to push ahead and try to "bump" Ayatollah Khamenei into an endorsement?

0615 GMT: Election Watch. In a major development, at least four principlist Presidential candidates have decided to combine forces for June's elections.

The five-member steering committee of the "Followers of Imam's Line and Leadership Front" includes former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki; Deputy Speakers of Parliament Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard and Mohammad Reza Bahonar; and former Minister of Interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi.

The fifth member is the Director of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Yahya Ale Es’haq.

So the question: has this committee been formed after consultation with the Supreme Leader's "2+1 Committee", seeking a "unity" candidate? Or is it parallel to --- and possibly even rivaling --- this effort?

0500 GMT: Nuclear Watch. At one point yesterday, my dismissal of any advance in the nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers was replaced by a cautious optimism.

For the first time since discussions resumed in early 2012, high-level discussions went into the afternoon of the second day. Western diplomats feeding the press had been silent since lunch on Friday --- a sign that their damning of the Iranians was being held in check --- and Iranian media were sensing progress because of an ad hoc meeting between the heads of the two negotiating teams, the European Union's Catherine Ashton and Iran's Saeed Jalili.

There was even a report from the Iranian Labor News Agency, courtesy of a senior MP, that Tehran had taken a major step toward the US-European position by agreeing to suspend enrichment of 20% uranium for some time, shutting down the operations at the Fordoo plant.

And then, suddenly, all the optimism evaporated. After a brief fifth and final session, Ashton told journalists that the two sides were still "far apart" in their positions.

Even more disconcertingly, Ashton said no agreement had been reached on a date and location for another set of talks.

Although Ashton said she would soon be in touch with Jalili over how to proceed, that failure opens up the door for others to push for more aggressive options --- from even more intensive sanctions to military action --- against Iran on the grounds that diplomacy has now failed once and for all.

Meanwhile, Iranian attention is likely to turn to the domestic drama of June's Presidential election, amid the worsening economy.

We will have a full analysis later this morning.

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