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Free Elections Are the Code for Sedition: Principlists Capitalize on Khamenei's Remark


By Arash Bahmani, Rooz Online

Immediately after Iran's leader ayatollah Khamenei denounced the on-going public calls for free elections in the country, hardline cleric ayatollah Ahmad Janati echoed the remarks during last Friday prayer's sermon in Tehran and now more than two hundred Majlis representatives have jumped on the bandwagon and declared free elections to mean "following the West's" wishes. In another twist in Iranian domestic political machinations, another senior cleric - a marjaetaghlid, i.e., someone whose views are religiously kosher - ayatollah Sobhani called for ending public elections of presidents in Iran, letting the Majlis make such appointments.

My Vote (A poster by Iranian opposition)

Now in support of ayatollah Khamenei's remark on denouncing free elections, 219 Majlis representatives issued a statement and called free elections to be the codeword for a "new sedition" in the country. Sedition is the term regime supporters in Iran use for the Green Movement, its leaders and all those who questioned the validity of the 2009 presidential election that reinstated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the head of the government.

Majlis' statement said, "We warn all those domestic voices and broadcasters who call for free elections to learn from what happened to the other seditionists and remind all parties, groups personalities etc not to remain silent over this new sedition, to come forward and denounce this new sedition, thus denying a revival of the seditionists."

Last week, ayatollah Khamenei denounced those who had been calling for free elections in Iran during the last few months. He said such calls reduced people's motivation in participating in the election and categorized all elections that have been held in the Islamic republic as free. Following these remarks, the secretary of the powerful Guardians Council that is mandated to vet out the candidates for national elections echoed his words during Tehran's weekly Friday prayer sermon. He harshly attached those who called for free elections and said that the term was a codeword for seditionists. "Politicians who had been defeated now talk of free elections," as a way to return to the body politic, he said. And without naming any person, he said one of these politicians had initially raised this idea, which was then repeated by others.

Another cleric ayatollah Momen, who also happens to be a member of the Guardians Council joined the critics and said, "Some unqualified individuals who get their directions from abroad to act against the Islamic republic talk of issues that are merely dreams. People must be wise and be watchful not to be deceived by them." He further said, "The presence of 85 percent of people at the ballots indicates that elections are free. This is while in the very countries that broadcast freedom and democracy only between 40 to 50 percent of people go to the polls. The life of the people of nation of the Islamic republic is dependent on the leader and when he says people should participate in the elections to the maximum people respond and make a more serious effort and so his words make a difference because the elections are free. Have you not heard the message of the leader who said which elections in the 34 year life of the Islamic republic were not free so that they now call for free elections."

Who was ayatollah Khamenei addressing has now turned into a new game in the media. Some principlist media say he meant Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iran newspaper (the government mouthpiece) wrote that Rafsanjani's website had mentioned the term free elections more 700 times in the last three months.

Baztab website close to former Revolutionary Guards commander and the current secretary of the State Expediency Council led by Rafsanjani said that Khamenei was pointing the finger at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which said that he had made such a call during his last televised interview. Ahmadinejad had in fact said that elections must be free who added that this would alter the domestic and foreign calculations about Iran.

Alef site belonging to Ahmad Tavakoli, a conservative hardline politician, wrote that Khamenei's remarks were addressed to Ahmadinejad, Khoeniha, Khatami and Rafsanjani. He said that the term free elections was now being used by domestic groups as well whereas this had been a call by what he called "counter-revolutionaries" residing outside Iran.

Another cleric, ayatollah Sobhani, last week announced that the president should be elected by the Majlis. He said that electing a president through public vote had brought about "unpleasant" consequences in the past, threatening the "foundations" of the regime and so proposed that the mechanism be changed. In his argument, he said this method of electing the president would also solve the problem of the confrontations between the president and the Majlis.

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