Iran: Presidential Candidacy Applications Spark off Debate

Iran

London – Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized registering candidacy for the presidential elections by individuals who lack required criteria – he considered what happened in the past days “here” as “a worldwide scandal and an a mockery of the regime.”

According to Iran’s official electoral commission, more than 1,636 people have registered their candidacies since the registration process began – it is a record score in the history of presidential elections in Iran.

IRNA agency reported that only 32 of the candidates have a chance to pass the stage of revising applications. During the period dedicated to receive candidacy applications 11-15 April, the media revealed that hundreds of candidates of various motives have turned over to submit their applications, causing sarcasm in the Iranian street.

Iranian Parliament speaker welcomed receiving a huge number of applications but also expressed surprise by some individuals who lack required criteria but still registered their candidacy – Larijani defended previously-set rules by the parliament to determine the conditions of the candidates including the main one: the candidate should be a political or religious figure.

According to Iranian electoral rules, candidates should have executive and political responsibilities that qualify them to reach the presidency.

Soon as the registration was over, IRNA reported that Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi expressed worrisome over the registration process. In his speech delivered in Qum, Shirazi said that a sixteen years old youth and a nineteen years old woman who have psychological problems or claim prophecy submitted applications for presidential elections.

Shirazi called on the Guardian Council of the Constitution to strictly implement the electoral rules, saying that “the current situation of registering candidates doesn’t fit for the Iranian regime.”

Iranian VP, Rafsanjani’s Brother Enter Presidential Race

Iran

London – The final stages of the Iranian presidential elections’ registration had few hidden surprises. Just before closing the registration, both competing parties, the conservative and moderates revealed their candidates.

Confirmations have been made concerning a shadow candidate for the current President after his first deputy Es’haq Jahangiri decided to run the presidential elections as the second main candidate of the pro-reform groups.

Meanwhile, two of major reform movement candidates announced a meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during which they discussed several issues including human rights issues and the ongoing house arrest of Green Movement leaders and 2009 elections’ candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

Last hour negotiations between Hossein Marashi, reformist politician and member of Executives of Construction Party, and Reformist figure Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari were an attempt to convince President Rouhani of Jahangiri’s competing in the elections.

The case of the “shadow” candidate stirred wide debates between reformists and moderates as the latter believe having a sufficient amount of candidate would ensure Rouhani alienation from the elections by the Elections Headquarters.

Jahangiri said he is going into elections to support Rouhani, adding that his primary goal is to clarify what the government begin and end with. His candidacy comes after the government spokesperson Mohammad Bagher Nobakht denied on April 09 any candidate from the current government.

Speaking to reporters after completing the registration process, Jahangiri said unity is needed to overcome challenges. He did admit that unemployment هs among the country’s main problems.

Over the past few months, the government was under fire from the conservative party and media close to Khamenei and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

As of now, Rouhani loyalist party is holding its breath before the Elections Headquarters decides the results of the applicants approved as of April 20.

Head of the Elections Headquarters Ali-Asghar Ahmadi said that totally 1,636 candidates filed for the elections few hours after a five-day time to register for Iran’s upcoming presidential elections came to an end.

Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, the brother of the late chairman of the Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, also on Saturday put his name down for the presidential contest.

Rafsanjani said that he plans to remain in the presidential race until the end and added that he plans to run the country according to priorities and program approved by the parliament. He added that he held meetings with several officials and that he was assigned to compete for the next president. When asked about his reaction in case his candidacy was rejected, he stated that he’ll leave it to God.

Meanwhile, ILNA news agency reported candidate Mohsin Ruhami saying he held talks with Khamenei during which they discussed the house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife and Mehdi Karroubi. He promised to publish the details of the meeting as soon as the registration is over.

He criticised the economic situation of the country, calling the election “a historic choice” to make “fundamental changes in the status quo”.

Speaking to reporters after his registration, Qalibaf disputed Rouhani’s claims about the current administration’s economic performance.

Among other officials in the presidential race are: former minister of Agriculture Jihad Sadeq Khalilian, former lawmaker Evaz Heidarpour, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Education and Research Committee Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, member of Tehran’s Islamic City Council Hassan Bayyadi, former vice president for parliamentary affairs Ahmad Moussavi and lawmaker Hamid Reza Haji-Babaei were.

Iran Reformist Leader Warns of Protests in Wake of Ahmadinejad’s Presidential Bid

Ahmadinejad

London – Mohammad Reza Aref, head of the List of Hope Reformist Parliamentarian bloc, warned against plots targeting the unity of his party, accusing ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of creating tensions that could result in Tehran revisiting the 2009 mass protests that ended with a mass execution of dissidents.

Attorney General Mohammad Montazeri meanwhile said that rivals are “conspiring” against running safe national elections and had vowed to legally pursue the hardline former leader seeking another term in office, Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad’s contentious commentary made in Ahwaz, directed against Iranian authority, will be the premise on which Montazeri will build his case.

Tehran’s conservative Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf rode the wave anti-Ahmadinejad criticism, saying that the country’s regime could not withstand rabble-rousing or another “2009 demonstration”.

“Those seeking strife and making wild accusations are taking an uncalculated risk and jeopardizing national security and unity,” Ghalibaf said in an indirect remark against Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad vexed campaigning against current President Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking another term in office.

Ghalibaf called on reformists in Iran to not be caught in the trap set up by those who “retaliate against the regime.” The Tehran mayor’s comment referred to Ahmadinejad’s clear violation of the Supreme Leader’s recommendation on him standing out the upcoming elections.

Khamenei asked Ahmadinejad to not register into this year’s presidential race in order to avoid further polarizing Iran. However, Ahmadinejad dropped a bombshell on Wednesday as election officials processed his bid for entering the presidential race.

After the 2009 election results announced that Ahmadinejad had won, supporters of moderate candidate presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi took to the streets to protest. The next day, protests grew, as did violence. On the night of June 14 that year, the pro-Ahmadinejad Basij paramilitary group raided Tehran University, injuring many.

Leading protesters were locked away with Khamenei calling for their execution, saying they are “people who wage war against God.”

Ahmadinejad’s move sparked widespread confusion in Iran, although he claimed that his chief goal was to back his ex-deputy Hamid Baghaei.

Most newspapers published this week that Ahmadinejad’s candidacy challenges the Guardian Council, which is Iran’s central election commission which has the power to disqualify a candidate—Ahmadinejad’s bid is a loud defiance to Khamenei’s orders, newspapers said.

In recent years, Ahmadinejad’s team has been known as the “nonconformist party” in Iran. The label came in consequence to his vice president Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei’s political rhetoric, which registered some of the most controversial comments when in office.

Mashaei would say that the Ahmadinejad administration is an indisputable embodiment of “Islam” and was directly linked to the prophesied redeemer of Islam, Mahdi.

Rouhani Warns from Arrests Ahead of Presidential Elections

Rouhani

London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized on Monday the wave of arrests against activists linked to his presidential campaign, warning of the increase of such practices as the May 19 presidential elections nears.

Rouhani said he worked on easing security measures during his presidential term.

In his last press conference ahead of the presidential elections, he stated that reports published by Iran’s intelligence and interior ministries showed that the people arrested by the Revolutionary Guards did not commit any violations, promising to publish the results of the investigations reached in this regard.

The Iranian president also warned against dealing with the presidential and municipal elections in Iran through a security approach. The municipal elections will be held simultaneously with the presidential ones.

Rouhani’s comments came on the eve of the start of the registration for Iran’s presidential candidates. The registration at the Interior Ministry will last five days.

Although the Iranian president did not confirm whether he will run for the elections, hours after he ended his press conference, a news website representing the government said that his first advisor Mohammad Ali Najafi and Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari both resigned from their posts.

Fars news agency later said the two men were appointed in Rouhani’s presidential campaign, a sign that the current president aims to run for a second term.

In his press conference, Rouhani took the opportunity to defend his regional policies, including on the Syrian file. He reiterated his harsh condemnation of the decision made by US President Donald Trump to launch cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base in Syria last week. He said there would be a response if Washington strikes Syria again.

Rouhani also hoped that this year’s Hajj pilgrimage would be a stepping-stone in improving relations with Saudi Arabia.

“We are ready to improve ties with Saudi Arabia if they want to,” he said.

Raisi Campaigns on ‘Saving’ Iran, Asks Rouhani to Set Differences Aside

Iranian senior cleric Ebrahim Raisi gestures as he meets grand clerics in the holy city of Qom

London- After entering Iran’s presidential race with great momentum, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi made a statement saying that the country must be ‘salvaged,’ and living conditions made better.

Addressing the current President Hassan Rouhani, Raisi advised his rival to set dispute aside and prioritize national unity.

The former prosecutor-general, after announcing his bid for president, said that he is taking-on current moderate President Rouhani to alter the detente policy with the West. Raisi drew out the suffering of Iranian’s under a Rouhani presidency which was accompanied with administrative corruption.

Government inability to meet the needs of Iranians and enforce the rule of law are two subject matters Raisi will be campaigning on.

A group of influential conservatives in Iran, operating under the umbrella coalition known as the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, or Jamna, held party conferences in the past weeks to shortlist their favorite nominees. Raisi received more votes than any other figure in their list of top five nominees, which also included the Tehran mayor, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf. While all five might register as candidates, many are expected to drop out later in favor of Jamna’s final favorite.

Raisi entering the presidential drag race took Iranian media by storm. Conservative radio broadcasts and television channels focused on comparing Rouhani’s current ‘accommodating’ presidency to what a decisive Raisi leadership would be like. On the other hand, Rouhani’s leftist bloc showed great worry in the face of a united conservative party backing a single president.

Pro-Rouhani media pivoted its campaign on Raisi’s lack of experience in policymaking and administrative affairs.

“People are asking why despite all our resources and human talents …our country is in this situation,” Raisi said in a statement published by Iranian news agencies.

In his first electoral address, Raisi, 57, pledged to “confront corruption” and “solve problems” and “introduce change.”

“The first step in the right direction and away from current problems is to form a strong and qualified government that works day and night on combating discrimination, corruption and restoring the dignity of the Iranian people,” Raisi said.

Raisi disregarded the notion of Iran being in any real “trouble.” He said that the recipe to fix any current national challenges is to have a “drastic change in executive management.”

Five Conservatives Running against Rouhani in Iran’s Presidential Polls

Rouhani

London – The final electoral lists are taking shape in Iran’s upcoming presidential polls after the conservatives unveiled five preliminary candidates and former General Prosecutor Ebrahim al-Raisi announced his candidacy.

During a press conference on Thursday, the conservative “Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces” (PFIRF) announced its electoral platform that will compete against President Hassan Rouhani, whom they accused of “mismanagement.” Only one of the five candidates will eventually run in the polls.

Raisi meanwhile put an end on Thursday to speculation on whether he will run for president. Conflicting reports have however emerged on whether he will compete as a conservative or as an independent.

Fars news agency said that he will run as an independent and that he will unveil his platform in a few days. Reports also spoke of disputes between Raisi and PFIRF in wake of his absence from the press conference that unveiled the candidates. His representative said he could not attend the event due to an earthquake that had struck the Khorasan region earlier this week.

Raisi’s announcement was made by Mashhad Mayor Sowlat Mortazavi on the margins of the PFIRF’s conference.

PFIRF is considered a grouping that is close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The head of the front said that it will reveal its final presidential candidate in the upcoming days, reported Mehr news agency.

Hopefuls can register their candidacy between April 11 and 15. Rouhani is expected to be the only moderate-reformist candidate and is seeking a second term as head of state.

Raisi’s running for the elections is seen as a significant development because he is considered the main candidate to succeed Supreme Leader Ayotallah Ali Khamenei.

He served as deputy parliament speaker between 2005 and 2015 before acting as general prosecutor in 2015 and 2016. He was then appointed by Khamenei as head of the Astan Quds Razavi, the greatest religious-economic foundation in the country that does not pay taxes.

Raisi had declared in March that he was not seeking to run for president. A few days ago however, over 50 members of the Assembly of Experts sent a letter to Khamenei demanding that he back Raisi’s candidacy. A campaign demanding that Raisi run in the polls was also launched by conservatives and the revolutionary guards.

Iranian observers have however voiced their concern over Raisi’s running due to his judicial record, especially in light of the executions in the summer of 1988.

Iran: Rouhani Warns Pre-election Public Frustration, Larijani Promises to Stop ‘2009’ Reoccurrence

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani.(Reuters / Adrees Latif) / Reuters

London- “They are trying to twist facts believing that they could undermine the government, but their actions would only lead to frustrating Iranians and damaging the regime, the country and the people,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday.

His harsh criticism was delivered a few hours ahead of opening registration for candidates running in the 2017 municipal and presidential elections in Iran.

Sadeq Larijani, Iran’s incumbent chief of justice, made provocative claims on a United States plotting to interfere in the Iranian elections. Larijani said that those responsible would not allow for the return of the 2009 ‘rabble-rousing.’

Referring to recent remarks by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley about the unrest, Iran’s Larijani said such interfering remarks show that the Americans may be hatching plots for the upcoming elections in Iran.

Speaking at the US Council on Foreign Relations last week, Haley pointed to the 2009 unrest in Iran as an example of the “UN ignoring human rights” and said, “the international elite had other priorities for Iran,” echoing those who criticized the Obama administration and others for declining to fully support the riots.

Larijani added that “countries like the US should recognize that in case of interferences like this (backing the seditionists in 2009), they will receive a very strong slap in the face,” reported Tehran-based news agency Tasnim.

In Iran’s 2009 presidential elections, people took to streets to protest the results, disputing the authenticity of the victory by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition reformist candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Demonstrations occurred in major cities nationwide stretching from 2009 into 2010.

On the first working day after Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year, Rouhani met a number of heads of executive bodies and reviewed methods of bolstering government defense.

“The frustration spreading among the people, keeping them from participating in the elections, plays into the benefit of enemies,” Rouhani said at the meeting.

With just a month-and-half left to the presidential polls, Rouhani backed elections, saying that they are key to “democracy” and are a “principle of legitimacy”.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran relies on the people’s vote and election and the country’s long term objectives are fulfilled in this way,” he said in his meeting with state directors and managers.

However, Rouhani once again dodged directly addressing controversy around his candidacy. Rouhani’s chances of another term in office remain insecure, with rising predictions that he will be barred from the presidential race.

Iran’s 12th presidential election is scheduled for May 19, 2017. The country will simultaneously hold the 5th municipal elections on the level of city and village councils and also midterm parliamentary elections for a number of constituencies.

Rouhani Political Aide: Election Brawl Threatens Iran’s National Security

London- With presidential elections just around the corner, the political spat in Tehran is ever more escalating.

In their recent confrontation, the ‘reformist’ administration led by President Hassan Rouhani-who seeks another term in office- and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forced a top Rouhani administration official to come out urging for restraint to be exercised in the best interest of national security.

All the while a senior official belonging to Ahmadinejad’s bloc said that reformers (in reference to Rouhani’s party) represent a major threat in the May 19 municipal elections, coinciding with the presidential election.

Hamid Aboutalebi, a political aide in the Rouhani administration, responded to harsh criticisms by Ahmadinejad earlier in the week when visiting the Ahwaz region in the southwest.

Aboutalebi accused Ahmadinejad of seeking to weaken national bipartisanship in hopes of reaching conservative support.

Ahmadinejad had gone as far as accusing Iran’s current president of defection.

Criticizing the current economic policy leaving Iran destitute, Ahmadinejad addressed Rohani saying “Who are you to not accept what the people say? 97 percent of people want something … Why do you oppose? Could it be that from among 80 million people, you and only you understand what is right? The people of Iran are the sole reason you are president.”

Ahmadinejad’s harshly phrased reproach was relayed during a speech he gave before a crowd of supporters in the city of Ahwaz, despite his previous statements of standing out from any election-related campaigning.

Aboutalebi, rushing to back Rouhani and promote the national spirit of unity, said that Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric destroys security and deregulates the national economy by promoting inequity among the rich and poor, along with depleting national wealth.

More so, Aboutalebi said that Ahmadinejad’s remarks chiefly promote nonconstructive populism.

According to the latest statistics released by the interior ministry, over 258,000 people – 15,566 of whom are women – have submitted papers to run for Iran’s nationwide municipal elections.

Focus of Rouhani-Putin Meeting: Syria, ‘Strategic’ Ties

London- Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani who stated in a news conference, before departing from Mehrabad International Airport to Moscow, that developing ties in diverse fields will serve the interests of both countries.

Iranian president also asserted that the Syrian crisis and other regional files will be discussed during the two-day consultations with Russian officials.

Rouhani, accompanied by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other high-ranking officials, met Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

He pointed out that his visit was a positive step that would enhance Russian-Iranian relations following eight previous meetings with Putin, during which they tackled regional and international relations.

The Iranian president tried to deliver messages to countries of the region saying that they would be “the biggest winners as Russian-Iranian ties develop”, and that these relations would “cause no harm to any third country.”

Iranians mark reaching a “strategic” phase in relations with Russia as highly important since this protects them from potential surprises during Donald Trump’s presidency and from Russian “abandonment” in the Security Council.

Iranian analysts see that there is a trust issue that dates back to 200 years ago and is hindering any development in ties between Tehran and Moscow. However, those who support enhancing Iranian-Russian relations find that matters can’t be resolved overnight but gradual steps are recommended.

Besides, the Iranian government considers Moscow a guarantor of the resumption of the nuclear agreement through protecting it from the new US administration decisions.

Iran has rising concerns of a potential US-Russian agreement on regional files by which Iran bears the greatest losses, namely in the Syrian matter. These fears were represented by Tehran announcing its wish to ink a deal with Russia via getting USD10 billion worth of arms following Trump’s victory in the United States.

Rouhani, in his visit to Moscow, is primarily concerned with consolidating political partnership and launching a strategic one via providing economic privileges.

Rouhani Warms Up to Khamenei, Reassuring Commitment to ‘Resistive Economy’

London- Two days after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei launched a wave of harsh criticisms against the country’s economic policy, President Hassan Rouhani rushed to deny any shortcoming on enforcing the nationally demanded “resistive economy.”

The spat intensified a few days before Rouhani put forth his bid for another term in office.

Rouhani vowed to set up ministerial council meetings to review recommendations given by Khamenei, saying that the first cabinet session in the Persian new year would focus on advancing local growth and production and increasing employment opportunities.

Iran media broadcasted a letter directed from Rouhani to the Supreme Leader welcoming his interest in national economic policy. Khamenei has been advocating “resistance economy,” an isolationist concept introduced in 2010 in which Iran is self-sustainable should it encounter economic sanctions.

“Resistance economy” is a way to circumvent sanctions against a country or region experiencing sanctions. This can involve increasing resilience by substituting local inputs for imported inputs, the smuggling of goods and an increase in barter trade.

Rouhani, in his published statement, reassured the Supreme Leader that economic weaknesses are well addressed, revisited figures showing that the government under his (Rouhani) leadership has managed to bolster internal growth, with non-oil exports outweighing non-oil imports. Rouhani repeatedly confirmed his commitment to resistance economy.

“The economy is one of Iran’s priorities in the new year,” Khamenei said during his annual speech in the Iranian city of Mashhad.

“I will not interfere in the elections,” he said, stressing that he does not take sides with any of the candidates.

In the past month, Khamenei has on three occasions sharply criticized the government’s economic policy. However, his tone was lighter than in previous times; trying to keep those criticisms from influencing the upcoming presidential election.

“Domestic production and youth employment headline the agenda of Iranian officials, which restores trust between public services and all economic activists,” said Rouhani in his letter.