Iran Election Guide

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Iran Today: How To Use Nuclear Talks In An Election Campaign

Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili (right) after nuclear discussions with Catherine Ashton, the representative of the 5+1 Powers

See also Wednesday's Iran Today: Lines Drawn In Presidential Campaigns

The Guardian Council, the body vetting the almost 700 people who had registered as candidates for the Presidential election, is scheduled to make its decisions today. However, with up to 40 prominent politicians and public figures among the hopefuls, it is close to a certainty that the Council will request a five-day extension.

Yet even at this early stage, it appears that the final battle may be emerging: former President Hashemi Rafsanjani will take his challenge all the way to the run-off on 21 June.

And to stop him, the Supreme Leader and others within the system will turn to Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council.

Despite no previous electoral experience, Jalili has put together an impressive campaign --- including through social media --- to take attention from other conservatives and principlists, including the members of the Supreme Leader's 2+1 Committee.

An example of that campaigning acumen? Jalili, Iran's lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers, used Wednesday's discussions with the 5+1's Catherine Ashton --- scheduled well before the formal registration of candidates --- to highlight his diplomatic and political skills.

Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition

The reformist Assembly of Combatant Clerics has unanimously endorsed former President Hashemi Rafsanjani for this year's election.

Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition

Conservative website Entekhab notes that former President and Presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani was a confidante of Ayatollah Khomeini, and that during his past presidency he had wanted to improve relations with the USA.

Entekhab notes that in the 2005 Presidential campaign, Rafsanjani declared that he was ready for dialog with America and "has made similar comments about negotiations with America".

Entekhab also noted that Rafsanjani's government had focussed on "rebuilding the economy".

Presidential Election Watch: Former Education Minister Joins In Rafsanjani Bashing

Alireza Ali-Ahmadi, Presidential candidate and former Minister of Education (2005–2009) has spoken out against former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, dubbing his entry into the Presidential race "an affront to the third generation of the Revolution".

In an interview with the conservative Tasnim News Agency --- opened last year to report on the "Islamic Awakening" --- Ali-Ahmadi asked whether Rafsanjani's decision to join the Presidential contest meant that he had failed to train a successor in the 34 years since the Islamic Revolution, or whether his decision to run meant he had not yet been successful himself.

Nuclear Talks: Saeed Jalili Takes The Spotlight

Presidential candidate and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has hit headlines again this afternoon, after taking the unusual --- for him --- step of directly blaming the US for the lack of progress over Iran's nuclear program.

Fars News has devoted extensive coverage to Jalili's comments in both its Persian and English-language services, another indication that the news agency --- close to the IRGC --- is likely to back Jalili's Presidential bid.

Jalili said that the dispute between Tehran and Washington dated back to America's support for the Shah, whom he said came to power in a "US-assisted coup".

In a nationalistic speech, the presidential candidate --- who is angling for the Supreme Leader's backing --- linked the dispute to the Islamic Revolution and what he dubbed the "emergence of religious populism in Iran".

In a hint that Jalili is also angling for support from the IRGC, he echoed the line pushed military and Revolutionary Guards leaders that Western-imposed sanctions, rather than crippling Iran, have caused the country to make progress, particularly in science and technology.

Jalili said that Iranians not only defend their rights, but are also making considerable progress due to their resistance. "We have made more progress in areas that they have pressured us," he said, reminding that Iran is now among the only 10 world countries with established nuclear technology capabilities based on indigenous capabilities and capacities. "As they acknowledge themselves (westerners) their statistical figures show that Iran's scientific growth is 11 times more than the global average," he said.

Presidential Election Watch: Guardian Council Requests Extension

As expected, the Guardian Council requested a five-day extension --- until May 21 --- in which to decide who among those who registered their wish to run in the Presidential race will be allowed to do so.

Just under 700 potential candidates registered in a process which ended last Saturday. The Guardian Council technically has five days to vet candidates but usually requests an extension.

Council spokesman, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, said: "The Guardian Council has sent a letter to the Interior Ministry, noting that it would require 5 more days to study the registrations, and we were given this time, according to the law."

Presidential Election Watch: Mashaei Edition

Bahman Sharifzadeh, a cleric close to presidential candidate and Ahmadinejad's right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, describes Mashaei's campaign headquarters this morning: it is in a modest building and sparsely furnished with a chair and a rug.

Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition

Political analyst Sadeq Zibakalam told students from Urmia University on Wednesday night that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani's entry into the Presidential race was necessary to unite the principlists.

Zibakalam, speaking at an event titled "The Election, A Political Puzzle", said that prior to Rafsanjani's registration, principlists had been recommended to unite, however after the former president's decision to run in the Presidential race, such unity was "obligatory".

Zibakalam also predicted that the Guardian Council would not approve Ahmadinejad's right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, as a Presidential candidate.

Nuclear Talks: No Progress But Jalili In The Spotlight

Iran's reporting on Wednesday's nuclear talks is decidedly different from that of Western outlets, though neither side gave much indication of the content of the talks or what was agreed.

Western news outlets put a negative spin on the talks --- the Christian Science Monitor's Scott Peterson reports that the talks "yielded little in the way of progress"--- for example, but offered little fresh information beyond the anodyne post-talks holding statement from UN Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton:

We had a useful discussion. It was not a negotiating round...We talked about the proposals we had put forward and we will now reflect on how to go on to the next stage of the process. We will be in touch shortly.

However, while Iranian reports do not offer any more information than their Western counterparts, they have offered a perfect opportunity for Iran's nuclear negotiator --- and presidential candidate --- Saeed Jalili to ensure he was in the headlines this morning, pushing the positive message that it is Iran, and not the West, that is in control in the nuclear negotiations.

Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards and which is showing signs that it is backing Jalili in the Presidential race, quoting him this morning as saying that the talks were "useful".

Iran's ISNA news agency leads with the same line: citing Jalili as saying the Istanbul talks were "useful" and that a further meeting would be arrange.

Beyond the news reports, Jalili offered his own commentary on the talks, stressing Iran's control:

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