By Safa Haeri
PARIS, 24 June (IPS) As Iranians went to the polls in their most unprecedented elections, having to choose between the “pragmatist”, millionaire cleric and the “fundamentalist”, son of an ironsmith, some pundits said regardless of who becomes Iran’s next President, the democratization process would be the ultimate winner, some political pundits speculated.
But as seen from the first round of the match, the Council of the Guardians might bringing the 49 years-old Mayor of Tehran out of its sleeves.
If the logic of arithmetic prevails, former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani must be able to recuperate the not much glorious and powerful seat of the presidency in a political system were all powers are concentrated in the hands of the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i.
The calculus is in fact very simple: With four of the candidates out of the five who got out of the race in the first round having officially announced their backing for the Chairman of the Expediency Council, meaning some 15 million votes in plus of the 6 millions he received, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani is credited with a large majority over his rival, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, who is assured of the 1.5 million votes garnered by Mr. Ali Larijani.
But as seen from the first round of the match, the leader-controlled Council of the Guardians that has the ultimate voice on election’s results in the Islamic Republic might reserve Iranians and the world at large with another surprise, bringing the 49 years-old Mayor of Tehran, considered as the “protégé” of Mr. Khameneh’i, out of its sleeves, proclaiming him as the final winner.
Also, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, described as a downtrodden, simple and son of the hard working class could get some of the votes of poor people who, in rural area, voted for Mr. Karroubi on his promise of handing 50 US Dollars per month to every needy person.
But analysts says not only it would be “very difficult” for the CG and the military to manipulate votes in favour of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, “due to the vigilance of pro-Rafsanjani observers that would be present in all voting places and watch carefully the voting process, they also warns against “chaos” and possible civil clashes in case there is “massive rigging” of the votes.
“Hashemi Rafsanjani is not an easy man. He would certainly not tolerate manipulations from the CG and would stand to the Guardians”, one observer said.
The bold accusations of rigging, manipulations, intervention of the militaries and militias and particularly from the very person of Mr. Khameneh’i as well as some members of his family and office has encouraged some dissidents to openly question the position, powers and mandate of both the leader and Council of the Guardians.
“Now the respected and honourable members of the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership in general and Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani in particular have to face the question of do they consider Ayatollah Khameneh’i fit for his position and does he possesses all the conditions of leadership, including justice, management and wisdom?”, wrote Mr. Isa Saharkhiz, a pro-reform journalist and political analyst in the Germany-based internet site Iran Emrooz (Iran Today).
In a press conference held immediately after the CG announced that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad had finished second, while until one hour before, it was Hajjatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi, a former Majles Speaker who was trailing Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the latter, in an unprecedented move, openly accused Mr. Mojtaba, the younger son of Mr. Khameneh’i who is married to the daughter of Mr. Qolamali Haddad Adel, the present Speaker, of overt interference in favour of one of the candidates he did not named, but let it be known that it was General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the former Police Chief, considered by most pundits as possible challenger of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.
To protest the decision of the leader-controlled CG, Mr. Karroubi resigned from his position as a special advisor to the leader and member of the Expediency Council.
It is interesting to note that Ahmadi Nezhad has also accused his rivals of manipulation and vote rigging, accusing them of having spent “billion of Toumans” (millions of US Dollars) in “buying votes”.
Comparing the situation with that of France on April 2002 when the surprise victory of Mr. Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the extremist right wing party Front National over Mr. Lionel Jospin, then Prime Minister and leader of the Socialist Party prompted almost all French voters except for some minor extremists to back Mr. Jacques Chirac, Mr. Saharkhiz also called on all Iranians to give “conditional” vote for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, “not because he is the candidate of our free choice, but to avoid the boots of a military fascism”.
“The danger of fascism and the rule of the militaries under the guidance of the absolute leader is such that there is no other way than voting for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.
“The danger of fascism and the rule of the militaries under the auspices and guided by the absolute leader is such that there is no other way than voting for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a man who, during his presidency, has often crushed rights and committed injustice to a large segment of dissidents fighting for their just rights”, he observed.
“The condition of my vote for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani is very hard but feasible under the potentials of existing convention: He must prove that not only he can be a strong and powerful president, but also lead the Assembly of Experts towards a destiny-making decision, that of exercising its right of control over the leader”, he added.
For its part, the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), Iran’s largest political reformist party led by Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the younger brother of the outgoing President has also warned Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani “not to profit from the fears fanned by the victory of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad and the actions of groups and classes supporting him, spreading panic by promising the return of cultural, social, political tightening”.
“The IIPF is supporting Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani without any expectation of being reward and would not take part in his future government, but at the same time it would continue to press for the preservation of all the achievements in the fields of democracy, stopping the interferences from parallel forces and facing pressure groups that prevented the realization of Khatami’s projects and programs”, the Party stated.
But for Mr. Mohammad Mohsen Sazegara, a former Islamist revolutionary turned veteran dissident, the comparison between thesituation in Iran with that prevailing in France of 2002 is “not correct, since in France, the president has powers while in Iran, the symbol of religious fascism is sitting right on the top of the power”, he pointed out.
Nevertheless, if, under these circumstances, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani wins the race, he knows that he owe his victory not because of his personality or programs, but the fear and hate generated by a certain thinking that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad symbolizes. “And this is good for democracy”, noted Parviz, a young student.
Hence the promise by the former president to “continue with the reforms and go even further forward in the democratization process”.
Meanwhile charges and counter charges amplified between those who called for the boycott of the elections and those who encouraged people to go to the polls, the latter accusing the boycott camp of “producing” Ahmadi Nezhad and offering him as a “gift” to the people and the first one charging the pro-votes of “heating” the electoral grill and providing the regime with a legitimacy it had lost.
For one side, mostly among the young generation, the victory of the Mayor of Tehran would awaken the political conscience of active forces of the society put at sleep because of the failure of Mohammad Khatami and the reformists in carrying out their promises, provided that Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad would enforce his narrow, dogmatic views.
“I hate Ahmadi Nezhad, but I shall vote for him, because if he wins and start putting in motion his ideas, like segregating men and women in all public places, even in the lifts, transforming public places in mosques and forcing women back to the chador and arresting young boys wearing western style dresses, there would be a clash”, Parviz said.
Other fears that the victory of the Mayor would prepare the grounds for foreign military intervention. “We can not remain idle, seeing the country facing international boycott, Iran being declared a no flight zone and at worse foreign forces occupying parts of our nation”, said Mr. Mohammad Ali Sepanlou, a national and popular poet.
This fear is also shared by some friends of the Mayor, describing him as “a pious, religious man but too radical, too fundamentalist, to the point that his triumph could lead to a civil war.
“I’m guilty to have dared entering the very centre of power, monopolized by some, their families and friends, the same ones who considers this is a big sin”, responded Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad to his detractors, particularly Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, alleged to have hands in all lucrative ministries, including the oil busness.
Warning against the possible backlashes of “diabolizing” Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, portrayed by pro-reform press and the intelligentsia as an “ultra-orthodox” who would give free hand to “forces of dark age” and introducing methods of inquisition, some observers sees in his victory a chance for the country and the population due to the “homogenization” of the government and a “normalization” of the chaotic situation resulting from conflict of interests between presidents and the leader.
Until now, Khameneh’i has systematically, methodically, stubbornly prevented presidents to do anything concrete for the nation and the population, mainly creating employment for the missions of jobless and solving the vital problem of relations with the United States, not willing to let others getting credits.
With Ahmad Nezhad as an obedient president, there will be a pre-revolution situation, when the Shah was the sole decision-maker and also responsible. This time, Khameneh’i would decide and the president, his master’s voice, would carry out. Against all odds, Khameneh’i might as well decide for starting dialogue with the Great Satan, since, if normalized, he would get all the credits”, is the forecast of a university professor in Tehran, adding that “but if Hashemi Rafsanjani comes back, there could be clashes between him and the leader and the prospect is another 4 or 8 years lost in bitter feuding between conservatives and this time so-called pragmatists, unless the two men have a pact of the wolves”. ENDS ATO IRAN ELECTIONS 22605