Despite the New Year holiday in Iran, the upcoming presidential elections slated for June 14 continue to dominate the political scene. Several new candidates have joined the presidential race. Iran’s Supreme Leader discussed the need to maintain law and order during the elections (and even published statements in this spirit on his Facebook wall and on Twitter). The Supreme Leader stated (following the accusations leveled against him) that the political establishment is not interested in “engineering” the elections. The Ministry of Intelligence and other security agencies have warned against exploiting the elections to foment public disorder and have imposed restrictions on the Internet ahead of the elections.
The individual battles has not been left unattended, with the battle between Ahmadinejad and his candidate, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (relative and close advisor), who will likely be disqualified by the Guardian Council (which screens candidates), appears to be heightening. Many of his opponents view Ahmadinejad and his candidate as deviating from the revolutionary current and as undermining the authority of the Supreme Leader. In this context, Rahim Mashaei clarified that he hopes the next government in Iran will continue in the path of Ahmadinejad and expressed his displeasure with the the Iranian broadcast authority’s open support of “certain candidates” referring to the 2+1 coalition, backed by Khamenei, consisting of the Supreme Leader’s Advisor for International Affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran Mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and leading Majlis member, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel.
In contrast, Mohammad Reza Bahonar criticized President Ahmadinejad for violating the Elections Law in his frequent use of the controversial slogan “long live spring,” which is identified with supporters of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, even calling him “a man of spring” during his most recent speeches in honor of the New Year and Revolution Day.
In addition to the battles between the government candidates and other candidates from the conservative principlist current, the reformist camp continues its efforts to persuade the former president of Iran to run in the elections and is consulting with members of the reformist camp on this issue. At the same time, officials in the conservative camp, including former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahiyan, are continuing to demand that Khatami clarify his positions regarding the events following the 2009 presidential elections before he decides to join the presidential race. The conservative camp views these procedures, and particularly the activity of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (who have been under house arrest for almost two years) before, during and after the June 2009 presidential elections as a betrayal of their responsibility for the popular protest and “their affiliation with external elements wanting to oust the regime in Iran and incite civil war (fitna).”
In any case, the issue is still open for discussion in Iran and with the statements of Habibollah Asgaroladi, head of the Followers of Imam and Supreme Leader Front, who said that the continued house arrest of the two is a lock that, if not opened, will cause problems again in the next elections… The lock was gluing Mousavi and Karroubi to the sedition (2009 post-election unrest), Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, member of the Presidium of the Assembly of Experts, has warned that Khamenei’s Nowruz speech did not mean that reformists could stand in the upcoming presidential elections and introduce a candidate.
In his Nowruz speech (March 21) Khamenei said, “All currents and movements trends of the Islamic Republic should take part in the elections. This is the duty and the right of everyone. The elections are not held for a particular current or a particular movement. Everyone who believes in the system of the Islamic Republic, who believes in the independence of the country and cares for the country and the national interests, should take part in the elections. Those who do not participate in the elections are the ones who are against the Islamic system.” Hojattoleslam Heydar Moslehi, Minister of Intelligence, said in this regard that all political factions that believe in the Islamic Republic’s system can and may enter the elections, where they would compete within the “red lines of the Islamic system… The Intelligence Ministry has created a plan to handle security during the presidential elections.
Ahmaed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, who recently published a scathing report on the human rights situation in Iran, discussed the upcoming elections on his website and publication on the BBC Persian website. Shaheed called for “free and fair elections in Iran,” and wrote that “Unfortunately, in Iran, the 2009 presidential election and violent post-election events demonstrate that rather than offering an opportunity for people to assert their basic civil and political rights, elections in Iran have seemingly become a time when rights are subdued and choices imposed… That the country will engage in an open and considered debate about its future. And yet, as one surveys the situation of human rights in Iran in 2013, it is difficult to foresee that things will be better than they were four years ago.”
In conclusion, the upcoming presidential elections in Iran serve as fertile ground for rival camps to criticize each other, and it appears that this trend will grow as the elections approach. The 11th presidential election will be held on June 14, 2013. The presidential hopefuls will register from May 7 to May 11. In the window of opportunity that remains until final registration deadline for candidates, other candidates will submit their candidacy. The Guardian Council will then announce the individuals eligible to continue in the race and those who are disqualified. It will also be a test of the regime’s stability and self-confidence in its ability to cope with a reformist candidate, even more so if it will be Mohammad Khatami or Rafsanjani (if they decide to join the race and pass the Guardian Council screening), while Iran’s economy continues to deteriorate and its revenue from oil continues to decline.