LA HERRADURA (SPAIN), 26 Apr. (IPS) The Council of Coordination of the Iranian Fundamentalists shot the first salvo in the campaigning of the upcoming presidential elections with the presentation, last Friday 22 April 2005 of Mr. Ali Larijani as their official candidate.
So far, eleven personalities of both the ruling conservative and the reformist camps of the Iranian clerical-led leadership have entered the race, probably one of the most unpopular, unenthusiastic and inspirited elections in the history of the 26 years old Islamic Republic of Iran.
The main reason for this unprecedented situation is that the ruling conservatives have made it clear that they would not let the presidency got out of their control and therefore would not allow a repetition of the May 1997 elections, when Iranians, in order to punish the conservatives and show them their hostility, voted massively for a relatively unknown cleric named Mohammad Khatami against the candidate of the establishment.
More than half of the potential voters have said they would abstain from going to ballot boxes.
The result is that more than half of the potential voters have said they would abstain from going to ballot boxes, according to some opinion polls, ordered by some ministries but kept secret.
“The coming elections, in which a handful of selected candidates are allowed to run for the presidency, a post that under the present Constitution is void of any importance, does not represents any interest”, commented the Office for Consolidation of Unity, Iranian students main organization in a recent statement.
Listening to their speeches and their programs, one can hardly make any difference between them, as all proposes almost same vague, unclear, undefined promises, centering on the reform of the government, fighting corruption, unemployment, improving the economy, satisfying demands of the youngsters and above all, keeping with the basic principles of the Islamic Revolution, meaning the main roots of major difficulties of the present system.
“An Iran without the Revolution has no meaning. If our culture, economy, interior policies and sections of foreign policy are becoming troublesome, it is because part of the governing body has deviated from the Revolution and its culture and principles”, said Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, the conservative Mayor of Tehran and a former Revolutionary Guard Commander.
With the exception of Dr .Ali Akbar Velayati, the former Foreign Minister, who is a confirmed pediatric graduating from American universities, one common denominator of the others is that all are doctors, in or of what, nobody knows, except that they have got their doctorate from the Free Islamic University that has a reputation of providing diplomas to anyone with a certain amount of cash, -- or power -- without ever having attended one course.
The other is that all have eyes for the young generation, promising them all the marvels of the world.
“Let young ones come to power and one would see the miracle arriving”, announced Police General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the last of the candidates to enter the competition and resigned some three weeks ago as Commander of Law Enforcement Forces.
Ahmad Tavakkoli, a former Labour Minister who took part in most of presidential elections and lost assured that if he is elected, -- and he thinks that he has good chances --, he would form a government presenting major changes in cultural, educational, political, social and economic fields.
The question of whether Mr. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani would enter or not the race gives the coming election a semblance of interest.
“We would create enough jobs for every Iranian, mostly the young ones, with good, honest salaries permitting them marriages, travels, happiness”, he promised during one encounter with the students at Tehran University.
Mohsen Reza’i, the Secretary of the Expediency Council and a former Commander of the Revolutionary Guards backs the idea of giving the young ones more initiatives and responsibilities but believes that militaries are in better position to decide and lead.
He is also against a “one dimension government”, saying that the future cabinet must be pluralistic, and in order to face economic crisis, price rise, unemployment and foreign threats, it must also have both political and economical wings.
If elected, Mr. Reza’i would reserve 30 per cent of the governance of the nation to the “third generation”, meaning those who are under 30.
Considering that present Iran is not to the dignity of the Iranians, Mr. Qalibaf is of the view that the main problem is not a lack of human or natural resources or planning, but the absence of will and determination to implement projects, hence “a president capable of using all the potentials of the Constitution”.
But he fails to recognize the fact that according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the president has limited powers and like all other officials, is subject to the will of the leader of the regime.
Against Hojjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi, the Speaker of the sixth Majles, or parliament who is racing under a reformist umbrella, offering a monthly of 50.000 (50 US Dollars) to every Iranian of over 18 years, Mr. Ali Larijani, the former Head of Radio and Television is promising to increase the purchasing power of ordinary Iranians by 40 per cent, lowering the inflation rate to under two digits and solve the problem of unemployment.
But while Mr. Karroubi does not say where he would get the 150.000.000 Dollars he would have to pay to the young ones that makes half of the Iranian population of 70 millions, Mr. Larijani, another former Rev. Guards officer does not spell out any plans for his ambitious program?
To fight social inequalities and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, Mr. Velayati’s receipt is suppressing all taxes on poor people and increases those involving the rich.
But he ignores that most of today’s Iran rich are the clerics and other groups that run the country.
According to Mr. Mostafa Mo’in, the former Higher Education Minister and the reformist’s leading candidate, the reason that made him to decide to run for presidency is to “end violation of human rights” in the one hand and on the other, making the Islamic Republic a “champion of respect of human rights in the world”.
“If elected, one of my deputies would be in charge of human rights with the task of following p this matter and regularly report to me and the people about the situation of human rights”.
But he does not specify which human rights he is talking about? The universal human rights that considers all human beings as equals and individual freedom as essential to all people’s rights or the Islamic one, which recommends segregation of women, considers non Muslims as inferiors to Muslims, imposes strict dress codes and fights most western freedoms and democracy?
Nevertheless, the sole question of whether Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani would enter or not the race gives the coming election a semblance of interest.
Until now, the former president and Chairman of the Expediency Council has skillfully preserved the suspense by avoiding to officially spelling out his decision, saying that he would wait to see any personality worth of the position would emerge.
However, in a speech to seminaries last week, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani said he was “about to take the bitter drink” of announcing his candidacy, hinting that in his view, none of the runners have the required qualities for occupying the post.
"The issue of the presidency has occupied my mind, and even though I would like someone else to take the responsibility, I think I'm going to have to swallow this bitter medicine" Mr. Rafsanjani said.
Although some candidates have dared to talk about the sensitive but crucial question of relations with the United States, conditioning any possible normalization to Washington’s acceptance of all Iranian conditions, but Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani is the only one credited by political analysts as having the necessary power to address the thorny, complicated and complex issue, thanks to the active lobbies he has created in the United States, England and major European nations.
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani is known for favouring a more open economic policies as well as giving people limited social freedoms, but he is not expected to launch a review of the Constitution, as demanded by the majority of Iranians.
Washington cut all relations with the newly established Islamic Republic of Iran and imposed unilateral economic sanctions after so-called islamist revolutionary students stormed the huge American Embassy in Tehran on November 1979 and took 55 American diplomats and staff as hostages, keeping them for 444 days.
The main obstacle to normalization come from the orthodox leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, whom not only has forcefully opposed all attempts to solve the problem, but has barred officials, lawmakers and the press to even talk about the subject.
But the situation has dramatically changed in the past years. Because of the fragility of the regime at home and increased international pressures over Iran’s nuclear activities as well as on alleged support for international terrorism and radical Arab and Palestinian groups opposed to any peace with Israel, Mr. Khameneh’i might be persuaded to review his stand, observers pointed out. ENDS IRAN ELECTIONS 26405