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Rafsanjani Calls for Free Elections in Iran: Warnings on Weakening National Solidarity

By Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, Rooz Online

The head of Iran’s powerful State Expediency Council and two-time president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has called for “All the phases of the future presidential elections to be held legally, transparently and freely.” According to him, this would “bring greater trust and hope to the public, and groups and forces loyal to the revolution and the constitution.” Prior to this Rafsanjani had asserted that the supreme leader of the Islamic regime had not opposed the presence of reformers in the Majlis elections.

Rafsanjani’s remarks, which were posted on his own official website, called for the need to “hold the elections in a transparent, legal and free” manner. He added that the materialization of this would “Recreate and return [the country] to the experience of the victory of the revolution, the imposed war and other events in creating unity, solidarity, and cooperation among people and officials.”

The veteran politician also said that this was “the right way to address the problems and threats” facing the country. While he did not elaborate or even mention what problems and threats he was refereeing to but said, “this way we can hope that the enemy of the Islamic regime will fail in its dirty goals.”

According to his website, these remarks were made to a visiting group of students from the Culture and Politics Society of Shiraz University. Responding to a question on the country’s nuclear diplomacy and what ways could be taken to prevent the further expansion of the current sanctions and pressure on the Islamic republic, Rafsanjani responded by saying, “Wise management away from emotions and propaganda.”

And while saying that acquiring peaceful nuclear know-how was “the right of every country and constituted the national accomplishments accumulated through many decades, including those prior to the Islamic revolution,” added, “Even though Western countries are currently seeking ransom and are killing time to accomplish their evil goals, it is possible to fail them in their goals through the support of people and forces that are sincere to the regime and the revolution, and also through proper management.”

Rafsanjani criticized the current political atmosphere in the universities and called it unsatisfactory. “With the qualitative and quantitative elevation of higher education since the Islamic republic, people’s general awareness, and particularly those of the elite of the country, has increased significantly and it is not right for this potential and capability to remain inactive in the political sphere,” he noted.

Rafsanjani then warned against “divisions and the weakening of national solidarity” and said this was not in the interests of the country.

Rafsanjani’s calls for free and legal upcoming presidential elections are similar to calls he had made prior to the 2009 presidential race when in fact he had repeatedly made the same call and even warned against rigging.

His remarks and his openly published letter to ayatollah Khamenei which warned against electoral fraud are cited by the ruling authorities and those that support the current leadership to call him the basis of the post election fiasco which the regime calls “fetne” (translated as sedition). Some officials inside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and some supporters of seyed Ali Khamenei have even called for action against and even prosecution of the head of the State Expediency Council who at the time was also the head of another powerful body that supervised the performance of the supreme leader and theoretically could appoint a new leader, the Experts Assembly on Leadership.

Rafsanjani’s calls for free elections come at a time when criticism against him has subsided and comes after Khamenei reinstated him as the head of the State Expediency Council a while ago. But these remarks may bring him back to the limelight and a resurgence of public criticism against him.

This is precisely what happened after Rafsanjani’s remarks that he made on the eve of the 2012 Majlis elections earlier this year. He said, “I hope that the results of the elections will be the same as what the people have desired and the same as the votes that they cast in the ballot boxes,” and this brought back harsh public attacks against him in the media and public forums.

In other interviews, Rafsanjani had said that to clear up the fiasco that came about after the 2009 elections which resulted in the death of many protestors, the country needed for “two or three elections to be held well.”

Hope for the Reformers

Just a day before Rafsanjani’s latest remarks on elections, Ishaq Jahangiri, a politician close to Mohammad Khatami’s administration who was also the minister of industries at the time, had quoted Rafsanjani as having said that “the supreme leader had no opposition to the election return of the reformers, even if they formed the majority in the Majlis.” He had made these remarks in an interview with Asseman publication.

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