London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In a public response to the Guardian Council’s disqualification of close aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei’s presidential candidacy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that “this is just the beginning” and that both men continue to stand firm, ISNA news agency reported on Friday.
In a meeting with a group of bloggers Ahmadinejad referred to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei as Iran’s “man of eternal spring”, expressing his regret that he could not be present. During his speech, the outgoing president spoke about the notion of spring and its conceptual link to the return of 12th Shi’ite Imam.
Both Ahmadinejad and Mashaei have described the latter’s disqualification from June 14’s presidential elections as a clear injustice, adding that they intend to forcefully protest the Guardian Council’s decision.
Rahim Mashaei also vowed to stay hopeful until the last minute, particularly as Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei can theoretically intervene and over-rule the Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify him.
However Mashaei’s tone, following his disqualification last week, has been calm and composed, raising suspicions that a secret “plan b” may be motion.
The Javan daily newspaper, which is associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), yesterday reported that Ahmadinejad has thrown his backing in the forthcoming elections behind Saeed Jalili.
Earlier, Iran’s Rouydad news website had reported that Saeed Jalili is the missing component in Ahmadinejad’s complex electoral maneuvering.
“All the fuss around Rahim Mashaei’s candidacy and Ahmadinejad’s full-fledged backing of him has been nothing more than a distraction tactic for another stealth candidate [Jalili],” Rouydad reported.
The sudden entry of Saeed Jalili into the presidential election race has served to effectively re-organize the fragmented and aggressive ranks of Iran’s “principalist” political faction. The principalist faction was formed during the 2005 election when both traditional conservatives and revolutionary radicals joined forces to oust reformists and moderate conservatives.
Close links and absolute obedience to the Supreme Guide characterize the principalist faction, something they have used to gain control of major national political and economic policies. Faced with unprecedented economic and political pressure from the international community over Iran’s contested nuclear program, the Supreme Guide seems to be in favor of ensuring that a candidate from the principalist camp enters office to continue current domestic and foreign policies.
Pro-reform news website JARAS reported leaked internal polling conducted by Iran’s intelligence services which indicated that Hashemi Rafsanjani could have potentially commanded up to 56% support prior to his disqualification.
The report claimed that this support could have increased to 71% after the launch of election campaigns, meaning that Hashemi Rafsanjani would have won a landslide victory in the first round.
“The finding of this report was immediately sent to the Guardian Council when, in its first round of deliberation, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s candidacy was approved by a vote of 7 to 4. Following this, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, along with his deputies and IRGC officials, met with some members of the Guardian Council to urge them to change their verdict”, JARAS reported..
The Rafsanjani-Khatami alliance that led to Rafsanjani’s nomination had been an attempt to restore the fortunes of moderate and reformists after 8 years of a principalist-hardline camp alliance, particularly given the level of support that both former presidents could command.