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Raucous Election: Politicians on the Record

by SEMIRA N. NIKOU

03 Oct 2011 17:51Comments

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This is the tenth in a series on parliamentary elections due in March 2012.

[ feature ] Iran's 2012 parliamentary elections will help define the country's political course for the next four years. The campaign is already heating up, as political groups begin to mobilize in anticipation of the March elections.

Reformist candidates are expected to face severe vetting by the Guardian Council, with hints emerging already about a potential election boycott. The government has labeled a number of reformist politicians part of a "seditious current," a reference to the opposition Green Movement that emerged after the controversial 2009 presidential election. Reformists have become increasingly marginalized and imprisoned since the post-election crackdown. But they have not been silent.

In December 2010, former President Mohammad Khatami laid out three conditions for reformists' participation in the elections:

· release of all political prisoners,

· free and fair elections,

· and freedom of participation for all political parties.

Not all reformists agree. Others, who fear participation will legitimatize a manipulative electoral process, criticized the former president's statements.

With the reformists' leverage reduced, if not diminished, the main competition is likely to be among conservatives and the hard-line coalition, commonly referred to as principlists. Their rivalries have turned fierce. The biggest battle is between supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei against other conservatives and hardliners. But even the latter group of principlists has been mired by internal conflicts, evident in recent public disputes over attempts to unify the principlist camp.

So far, the principlist political bloc has formed a committee, called the 7 plus 8 Committee, to put together a united candidate list throughout the country. But the Steadfast Front, which includes former Ahmadinejad supporters and cabinet members, may also challenge the 7 plus 8 committee's list. There are disagreements among the principlists on the extent to which reformists and pragmatic conservatives, including supporters of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, should compete in the elections.

Candidates and their positions may not be finalized until two to three weeks before Iranians vote, as is generally the case during Iranian elections. But current official statements and debates give clues to the issues and alliances that will be central in this round of elections:

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

"We have an upcoming election at the end of the (Iranian) year. To some extent elections have always been a challenging issue for our country...we should be careful that this challenge does not hurt the country's security." Aug. 31, 2011

Statements on reformist participation

Morteza Nabavi, managing editor of conservative Resalat newspaper and member of the Islamic Society of Engineers:

"Reformists have been divided into two camps. The first group has been identified as the sedition movement that has challenged the system and crossed legal boundaries...The second group consists of reformists who have not crossed boundaries and red lines, and has tried to be active within the system. Today, we witness the second group trying to define clear boundaries between itself and the sedition movement."

"I think the parliament's minority faction, meaning reformists, will become stronger [in the next parliament]...There will be more reformists in the ninth Majles than in the [current one], in the same way there were more reformists in the fifth Majles than in the fourth Majles." July 25, 2011, interview with Arya News Agency

Mohammad Khatami, former president:

"Our demands in the past as well as the present are clear, and have been emphasized even in the aftermath of the recent [2009 presidential] election. [Favorable] conditions for broad participation of people [in the elections] and guaranteeing their rights must be provided. In addition, the elections must be held in such a way that there will be minimum hindrance of free voting by the people and maximum conditions for materializing their demands and ideals."

"The minimum conditions for the reformists' participation in the elections are the release of all the political prisoners, freedom for all political parties and groups and removal of all limitations [on their activity], commitment of all, particularly the officials, to the constitution and the execution of all of its articles, especially its true spirit [meaning those articles that respect the rights of the people], and holding free and fair elections." Dec. 28, 2010, translated by Tehran Bureau

Ali Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran chief prosecutor:

"We hear some leaders of sedition setting conditions for the Islamic Republic. [A reference to former President Khatami's three conditions for reformists' participation.] They should not think they can pretend to set conditions for us. It is the regime that has to set conditions for them and the very first one is their prosecution." Dec. 31, 2010

Mohammad Ali Jaffari, Revolutionary Guards general:

"Those reformists who have not crossed red lines can obviously participate in political races. As for how successful [former President] Khatami could be, that depends on his political stance." July 5, 2011

Masoumeh Ebtekar, member of Tehran's city council and former vice president and former spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy hostage-takers:

"The conditions set forth by [former President Mohammad] Khatami are necessary for reformists' participation [in the elections]...Khatami's proposed conditions cost him a lot since some believe that there will be no significant changes [along the lines of Khatami' s conditions.] But he has faith in a bright future and believes that ultimately, the entire ideological spectrum will have to build Iran together." Aug. 16, 2011

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, parliament deputy speaker

"Reformists who believe in the constitution of the Islamic Republic can and should participate in the elections." Aug. 8, 2011

"I have announced many times that we only consider two people [Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi] as heads of sedition. Others only assisted the seditionists. We are not willing to label anyone [else] we have problems with as a sedition leader. This is unacceptable..."

Mohsen Hashemi, member of the central committee of Servants of Construction Party and son of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani:

"In the current atmosphere, making a decision to run in the election is very hard for individuals like me.... There are still no hints from the elders regarding the presence of [people] like us and hence I have not made a decision whether to run or not to run. We have to wait.

In any case, difficult domestic and international conditions have been formed for Iran, the exit from which will definitely require the presence of the whole political spectrum and use of all points of view. With moderation and pragmatism we can definitely pass through this stage." Aug. 22, 2011, interview with Khabar Online

Rasoul Montajabnia, deputy head of the National Confidence Party (Mehdi Karroubi remains the head of this party in absentia):

"Surely until conditions and situations for various reformist currents and spectra, including the National Confidence Party, do not change, these currents will not be active and introduce their own candidates in the elections for the ninth parliament." August 24, 2011

Statements on principalist unity

Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, current parliamentarian and former speaker of parliament:

"If we [the principlists] choose to split because of some bearable matters, we will be responsible for the defeat of the principlists." July 28, 2011

Ali Motahari, conservative member of parliament:

"I have said that I am opposed to [superficial] unity among the principlists, but support unity based on wisdom. Thus we can have a separate list. Ultimately, we will have to wait to see what happens, but it is also possible that our list will not be under the banner of the principlists. For example, we may have a list consisting of the moderate reformists and principlists." Aug. 15, 2011, interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency and translated by Tehran Bureau

Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, member of the Assembly of Experts and the ideological guide of the Steadfast Front:

"Our presence in the Steadfast Front of the Islamic Republic is not a sign of fissure, conflict, and differences. But we have recognized that this group's tendencies are closer to Islamic values and their affinities to the revolution's principles are more than others." July 28, 2011

Statements on the supreme leader

Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, current parliamentarian and former speaker of parliament:

"The supreme leader does not like the principlists to enter the electoral arena with more than one list." August 11, 2011


Hassan Ghafouri Fard, conservative member of parliament:

"Saying that the supreme leader's view is that only principlists [should] become unified is costly to the supreme leader and is not in the interest of [the country]...since he is the leader of all Iranians" Aug. 18, 2011

Mohammad Nabi Habibi, head of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party:

"No ideological political and factional current has the right to expropriate the supreme leader to its own advantage." Aug. 17, 2011

Statements on Hashemi Rafsanjani

Jafar Shajouni, member of the Combatant Clergy Association:

"Current difference among principlists is over [former President Akbar] Hashemi Rafsanjani more than anything else. A group of hardline principlists believe that Hashemi should not be considered a principlist, since he has proven not to be dedicated to this political camp. There is another group that swoon over Hashemi..."

"I believe that the Steadfast Front (Jebheye Paydari) is standing against Hashemi Rafsanjani and wants to sideline him in any way possible. But the traditional conservatives, who are trying to preserve Hashemi's position [in the regime], are standing against the Steadfast Front." Aug. 20, 2011, interview with Fararu News Agency

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, parliament deputy speaker:

"I consider Mr. Hashemi [Rafsanjani] as part of the governing board of the revolution...He has never been against the regime and is not among the sedition heads." Aug. 20, 2011

Semira N. Nikou works for the Center for Conflict Management at the U.S. Institute of Peace. This article is presented by Tehran Bureau, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as part of the Iran project at iranprimer.usip.org.

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