Famous dissident and journalist Akbar Ganji, who wrote a series of stories about the murder and disappearance of Iranian intellectuals and dissidents from 1988 to 1998 in which he revealed the involvement of top government officials and clerics including Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has written a new op-ed about the opportunity he sees in Rafsanjani’s candidacy for the presidency.
An audio file of Tehran Mayor and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has surfaced in which he highlights his personal role in the crackdown of protests in 1999, 2003 and 2009. Ghalibaf, who some have touted as a pragmatist and an able manager as mayor, reportedly spoke to a group of Basiji (members of a paramilitary group under the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Sepah) three weeks ago, during which he revealed a more hard-line side to his actions and beliefs.
Presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei made several public statements at a mourning ceremony for Imam Hadi today. On claims that he would attempt to change Iran’s constitution, Mashaei said that “these claims have been made by the Zionist and English media and they are baseless.”
In an interview with Shargh newspaper yesterday, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s eldest daughter recounted the final minutes in which Rafsanjani decided to head to the Interior Ministry building to register his name for the Iranian presidential elections.
Fatemeh Hashemi said that Rafsanjani and his children and grandchildren had gathered at his office since that Saturday morning, the final day of registration. They had discussed the pros and cons of his entering the elections until late afternoon, at which point Fatemeh became “certain that he had made up his mind and was not going to register.”
A spokesperson for the Guardian Council told reporters yesterday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei’s registration for the presidential race at the Interior Ministry building was a “violation.” Saturday was the final day for candidates to register their names. In a dramatic fashion, both Mashaei and Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered in the final minutes, accompanied by an entourage of supporters.
Mohammad Reza Aref, former first vice president from 2001-2005 under former president Mohammad Khatami, registered for Iran’s presidential elections today. Aref, who is currently a member of the Expediency Council, an advisory body to the supreme leader, said that soon a united Reformist candidate would be introduced among the other potential candidates. He is perhaps the most well known Reformist candidate to register thus far.
A member of the Assembly of Experts, Ali Fallahian, formally registered today for Iran’s presidential elections. Fallahian, who is believed to be the infamous “Master Key” in Iran’s notorious “Chain Murders” of dissidents and is wanted by Interpol in connection to the Buenos Aires AMIA bombing, said to reporters after registering, “I will not retreat on any front.”
Fallahian, who was minister of intelligence under Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, added that “Rafsanjani said that he won’t run, so if he decides to run, my reason is justified because a lot of my supporters asked to me promise that I would not step aside in favor of other individuals, and no one would be happy if I don’t fulfill my oath.”
The last time Fallahian ran in the elections was in 2001. He received less than one percent of the total votes.
On foreign policy and Iran’s regional role, Fallahian said, “The arrogant powers’ politics for the region has failed and they are experiencing economic problems.” he added, “We are hopeful that Iran can play a useful part in driving out the arrogant powers and be influential in bringing about stability, security and progress for the region.”
Bahman Sharifzadeh, a cleric close to Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei told Entekhab that Mashaei will register for the presidential elections on Saturday, the final day of registration.
Sharifzadeh said that he saw “no reason for Mashaei’s disqualification” from the Guardian Council. The reporter asked why, then, did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei write a letter objecting to Mashei’s appointment as Ahmadinejad’s vice president in the president’s second term. Sharifzadeh responded, “This is very misleading to say, that Khamenei did not want Mashaei to become vice president. First, read the letter, and did Khamenei give this letter to be published?”
After the 2009 elections, Ahmadinejad was attacked by hard-liners in Iran for his nomination of Mashaei as his top deputy. Although Ahmadinejad first resisted the criticism from his right, it ultimately took Khamenei’s intervention to persuade Ahmadinejad to give up the appointment.
Regarding Khamenei’s intervention, Sharifazdeh continued, “The contents of the letter from the supreme leader [to Ahmadinejad] was that ‘a group of your friends will be disappointed in this appointment, and it is better that this appointment not take place.’ This sentence screams that the issue was about Ahmadinejad’s friends, and not the supreme leader.” He added, “The next letter from the supreme leader, stating that appointing Mashei in other positions is not a problem, confirms that Khamenei has no issues with Mashaei.”
Hojat al-Islam Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi, the secretary-general of Hezbollah in Iran, also registered today. Kharrazi said that his four main goals would be to focus on “epic progress, calm, economic relief and health.”
Kharrazi also reiterated statements he had made previously about a “Greater Iran.” He talked about “turning Iran into our Greater Homeland and have our sacred culture reach our Greater Persian Islamic borders, which starts from China and continues unto Africa.”
Outspoken Tehran University professor and political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam spoke to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) today about the elections. Zibakalam, who is believed to be close to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, said that “in the following days, Rafsanjani will register his name as a candidate for the presidency and Khatami and the main body of Reformists will announce their support for him.”
Registration for candidates for Iran’s 11th presidential elections officially began at 8 this morning in Tehran at Iran’s Interior Ministry building. Candidates have until 6 pm Saturday, May 11 to register their names. After the registration process closes, the 12-member Guardian Council will issue its first list of those they deem qualified to run. After an appeal process, the final list of Iran’s presidential candidates permitted to run will be issued by the Guardian Council on May 23.
Nearly two dozen candidates have registered their names at this point. Some of the more prominent candidates spoke to reporters after registering.
Former nuclear negotiator and current head of the Center for Strategic Research Hassan Rowhani was perhaps the highest-profile registration today. He said that “saving the economy, reviving the morale of society and constructive engagement with the world” is what he would bring as president.
Rowhani has attempted to position himself as a “moderate” between the Reformists and Principlists. He said that “I am a moderate individual. I’ve always had close and warm relations with moderate Reformists and Principlists. …I’ve consulted and spoken with the leaders of both sides and I hope I can attract the votes of all the moderates in society and those who believe in reason and moderation.”
To questions about Rafsanjani’s potential candidacy, Rowhani said, “you have to ask him that,” but he did add that “it’s unlikely that he will register.” Ali Younessi, the minister of intelligence under President Mohammad Khatami, said that he met with Rafsanjani and doesn’t believe he will run. He added, “We’re certain that Rafsanjani will not run, but assuming he does, Rowhani will put out.” In January, MP Temour Ali Asgari, who is close to Rafsanjani and Rowhani, made similar statements to Etemad newspaper.
One of the first candidates to register was Sadegh Vaez-zadeh, a former deputy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a member of the Expediency Council. He said that he “had designed a comprehensive plan to solve inflation,” adding, “We’ve come to realize the fundamental needs of the people, especially the youth, and I believe the current state is not desirable and we can neither return to the past.”
Former health minister under President Ahmadinejad’s administration Kamran Bagheri Lankari also registered today. He said that “our goal is to bring about calm in the country, not tensions.” Lankari said that he wants to address “reforming the banking system” and “corruption in the administration.” On former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s potential candidacy, Lankari said, “I think the young country of Iran needs young ideas rather than returning to the past.” Lankari is also close to hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a former supporter of the president.
Former minister under previous administrations Mohammad Saeedikia also registered today. Saeedikia is not a favored candidate and questions revolved around his response to being disqualified, to which he responded, “I’m dependent on the law.” Mostafa Kavakebian was another political figure to register today. He said, “My slogan is ‘long live Reformism,’ my administration will named ‘morality,’ and my color is green.”
Many candidates picked various colors to represent their campaigns. Green was the color chosen by Reformist candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi in the 2009 elections, which came to be later known as the Green Movement.
Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has once again issued statements about the potential of his candidacy for the Iranian presidency. Registration for candidates begins tomorrow and ends Saturday, May 11, at the Interior Ministry building. On his potential candidacy, Rafsanjani said to a group of Tehran University students, “I am currently assessing if it’s even needed for me to run.” He continued, “If I conclude that I should run, I need to speak to the leader [Khamenei] about the matter, because without his consent I will not run, and without his agreement, the result of my running for the elections will be the opposite [of what is desired].” In contrast to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Rafsanjani has expressed more concern about Iran’s current direction, going so far as saying recently that “if I feel that I can save the country, I will run.” He and Khamenei had long been considered two of Iran’s most powerful figures, but after the 2009 elections, Rafsanjani’s power and influence had decreased considerably. It is commonly known that both figures, and particularly their children, are at odds politically. Rafsanjani continued that “if a situation comes about that there are disputes between me and Khamenei, it will be to everyone’s detriment.” He added, “Our condition is bad, but it shouldn’t result in our despair. Rather, it should cause us to raise our consciousness.” On Saturday, Khamenei’s older brother, Ayatollah Mohammad Khamenei, criticized Rafsanjani’s position in the 2009 elections and the current presidential race. He said, “The enemies of the Islamic Republic put all their support behind the 2009 elections, and Mir Hussein Mousavi was picked by Rafsanjani and other opposition groups to pursue their own goals.” Mousavi ran as the Reformist candidate in the 2009 elections. He and his wife have been under house arrest for over two years without charge for contesting the results of those elections. Mohammad Khamenei, head of the Sadra Islamic Foundation, warned, “There is a new scenario by the experts and designers from American think tanks and their domestic advisers, who were the leaders of the 2009 sedition. In the new scenario, they’ve tried to present an individual who is likely to run and receive votes and be close to their intellectual perspective. What can be witnessed is that presumably, Rafsanjani is the best person for this plan and it makes no difference if he is aware of the depth of this conspiracy or not.” Mohammad Khatami, another potential presidential candidate, recently expressed his views on the presidential elections and the state of the country. He described Iran as being in “a suffocating security environment.” He added that “trust between the people and the government is gone. From the lower economic classes to the employers and the elite and especially the middle class and the young, they’ve lost their hope and trust, and this needs to be revived.” Khatami added that there must be “an understanding at the upper levels” of government. “Without Khamenei wanting it and without cooperating with him, these problems will not be solved. Someone needs to run for the elections who has this approach and understands the power of cooperation.”