Important changes made in the presidential electoral laws

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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  reacted critically yesterday to the Majles’ change of the election law by the Majles and has called it “unconstitutional” and argued that it contravenes articles 115 and 6 of the Constitution. Ahmadinejad insisted on the primacy of the presidential institution in the Iranian constitution, stating: “The representatives are a minority of the people and at the moment there is not a representative who has obtained more than 30% in his area, but the president alone is the person representing the whole of Iran.”

Many analysts inside Iran have taken this comment as yet another not so indirect swipe at the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, by means of which Ahmadinejad is claiming himself to be the sole democratic representative invested with a popular mandate.

Of particular note as regards the election law reform is that at least 100 members of the “political and religious elite” must confirm future presidential candidates and that the candidates cannot exceed 75 years of age. The latter change directly precludes former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running for the June 2013 election. These changes in the election law also look like they might well be used to further snuff out any prospect of Ahmadinejad’s favored candidate clinching the presidential office. This is especially so, since it is the Guardian Council, half of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, who determine those considered amongst the “political and religious elite.”

Addressing the Majles Ahmadinejad also commented in his reaction, “you think it is the Qajar era (referring to the monarchical dynasty which ruled Iran in the 19th century) and despotism still rules.”

“The will of the people is above all the institutions and no institution can impose its own interpretation on the people. Of course it is possible that some say the people don’t understand, and that just what we say is implemented, but we must say that the Constitution became credible for implementation with the vote of the people.”

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad appointed his controversial chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim  Mashaei, as head of the secretariat of the Non-Aligned Movement and Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, another controversial figure, as head of the Organization for Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor-in-chief of Keyhan newspaper, and who many regard as a quasi-official voice of Khamenei’s, wrote an article in Keyhan today that’s highly critical of President Ahmadinejad’s appointment of Mashaei. Shariatmadari claimed this appointment by Ahmadinejad is “ an indication that attention is not being paid to Islamic and national interests.”  According to Shariatmadari it also shows that “Ahmadinejad has again and for the umpteenth time stepped into the circle of deceit of the deviant current [i.e. the circle around Mashaei who are held to have secret ambitions to subvert clerical hegemony in the Islamic Republic].”

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ezhei has admitted at a news conference that blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died while being held at Kahrizak detention cenetr, was beaten and abused in prison, but that this was not the reason for his death.

Mohseni-Ezhei also told journalists that two more people, who were left unnamed, have been arrested in connection with the case of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Foreign Affairs 

Saeed Jalili, head of the Supreme National Security Council, in a meeting with Moncef Ben Salem, the Tunisian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, made a number of statements critical of US policy in the region.

Jalili is quoted by Fars News as stating: “The opposition of the West to Islamic civilization has roots in the destruction of the monopolisers and Islamic thought’s obtaining power and actions such as the assassination of the Iran’s nuclear scientists by the Zionist regime were undertaken along such lines.”

Regarding the United States, Fars paraphrases Jalili commenting that “America’s recourse to the strategy of pressure alongside dialogue is a sign of the weak logic of that government and the use of force instead of argument.”

At a gathering of the Revolutionary Guards’ Imam Ali brigade on Sunday in Qom, Hojjat al-Islam Ali Saeidi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in the Revolutionary Guards, referred to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s offer of direct negotiations with Iran has said: “This suggestion is to shake the resolve of the Iranian people.”

Saeidi added: “In negotiations with the Americans, no success will be obtained by Iran, because the problems of Iran and America in strategic terms are so extensive, that they are not negotiable under any circumstances.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmaparast, in reaction to recent statements by officials of the United Arab Emirates, told a news conference: “The three islands [Abu Musa, Lesser and Greater Tunbs] always have been and always will be an inseparable part of Iranian soil” and “repeating baseless claims will not affect existing realities.” He added: “Iran does not believe in any limitations for the spread and strengthening of friendly relations and cooperation with countries in the Persian Gulf and always has welcomed rational dialogue with regional countries to the end of settlement of misunderstandings.”