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Responses to Rafsanjani's Candidacy: The Alignment of Political Groups Disrupted!

By Fereshteh Ghazi, Rooz Online

“Just like a soldier who puts his life on line, I too take the honor and credibility that I have acquired from the Islamic revolution and the people into my hands for the service of Islam, the revolution, people and the revival of the motherland, and step into a field that I have known in the period after the 8-year Bath party war against Iran, which resulted in the destruction of five provinces of the country and the destruction of its infrastructure and resources, by stressing Shiite moderation which views the left, the right, and extremism to be deviation and going astray.”

Hashemi Rafsanjani

These are parts of the statement that Iran’s veteran politician and two-time president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani issued after he officially registered to participate in the June presidential election. His official entry into the race has already upset the political calculations and alignment of political groups inside the country. Rafsanjani is certainly not new in these waters. He was a close confident of the founder of the Islamic regime ayatollah Khomeini, and during the 34-year life of the Islamic republic has been a member of the Islamic Republican Party, the care taker of the ministry of the interior, the head of the parliament, the Majlis, a temporary Friday prayer leader for Tehran, deputy commander in chief of Iran’s armed forces, vice-president of the assembly of experts on the constitutional assembly, president, the head of the supreme council of the cultural revolution, the head of the supreme council on national security, and the head of the Assembly of experts. At the age of eighty, Rafsanjani is stepping into the race as many of his former critics in the reform camp are now throwing their support for him.

Some have called his decision to enter the race to be his turn into the last chapter of his life and have tied Iran’s fate to this chapter. Others view him to be among the opposition that ruling circles call seditionists and call for his disqualification. Military leaders are issuing warnings, Majlis representatives are signing resolutions and some media issue secret bulletins against him. At the same time, some presidential hopefuls have stepped aside in his favor or taken position against him. And all of these posturing have taken place less than 24 hours after his put his name down as a candidate for the scheduled June 14 elections.

Alef website associated with parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakoli, has called Rafsanjani to be the leader of the dialog with reformists. “Hashemi has entered the race because if he had stayed out, critics who had remained outside the government and power structure for years would have been kept out for the next eight years. Khatami did not join the race, but contrary to what Kayhan newspaper - whose editor is directly appointed by the supreme leader - predicted, Rafsanjani has entered the race. People have a right to elect or reject me,” it wrote.

Mashala Shamsolvaezin, a well-known journalist and the editor of a number of now-banned newspapers such as Jame, Toos, Neshat and Asr Azadeghan, predicts that Rafsanjani will actually win the election and says his entrance into the race stems from the “responsible commitment” he feels he has to the fate of the country. He praised him for his decision. “He is using the last chapter of his life to the best. This decision is tied to the fate of the country,” he wrote. Talking to Asre Iran website, Shamsolvaezin said, “Rafsanjani is the only person over whom there is agreement among various groups and factions and who can return the conditions of the country to what they were prior to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency. We hope to return to the conditions of 2005 and not repeat the losses that we have been paying. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s performance has shown the people of Iran that we need not waste our resources for empty slogans.”

Abbas Abdi, a political analyst in the reformist camp believes that Rafsanjani has not stepped forward to stay in the race but to push for an arrangement that would satisfy his concerns and goals. Speaking to Faroroo website, he said, “Since the government candidate has registered to run in the race, Mr. Rafsanjani may now decide to stay till the end because he rightly believes that nobody can successfully stand up to the government’s candidate. The presence of both candidates at the ministry of interior at about the same time was symbolic demonstrating the arrival of two main contenders at the battlefield. His second condition to step down is that a clear agreement is reached over the political situation in the country. It would have been better if this agreement had been reached before he had registered and before the elections take place. That would have settled the issue of who should be elected, i.e., people vote for, which would have required Rafsanjani’s blessings. The reality is that the only way for him to step down now is to reach an agreement with him: an agreement that will take his political interests into account. In the absence of a government candidate however, Mr. Rafsanjani is a certain winner in the race.”

Immediately after Rafsanjani registration, Mohammad Khatami and the reformers’ consultation council issued a statement supporting the candidate and termed the decision “self-less” and “above factionalism.”

Will He Be Approved?

Just a day after Rafsanjani’s registration, conservative websites published a critical letter that 150 Majlis deputies had signed against him. A group of representatives led by Ruhollah Hosseinian, Mehdi Kootchakzadeh and Vahid Rasai - all pro Ahmadinejad administration representatives in the Majlis - had worked to get the signatures. The letter criticizes Rafsanjani’s stance on Israel, the supreme leader, and the state of the country.

Raja News website asks the question: Does Mr. Rafsanjani Qualify to Run in the Election? It then claims that Rafsanjani had played a key role in the post 2005 election unrest in the country. It also charged reformists that their tactics remained to fight battle in the streets of the capital and other cities.

Mohammad Hadi Salimizadeh, the head of Tehran University student Basij para-military force affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards responded to Rafsanjani’s registration by saying that there was the odor of the 2009 “sedition” (public’s rejection of the official results of the 2009 elections) in Rafsanjani’s actions.

Military Circles

Military circles have drawn lines for both, Mashai and Rafsanjani. Mehdi Taeb, the commander of the Ammar military base responded to Rafsanjani’s registration by saying, “Mr. Rafsanjani is 79 years old and he knows that he cannot muster the votes and physically he is not suited for the job.” On the possibility of his disqualification, Taeb said that ayatollah Khomeini had said that the current position of a person was the criteria for determining his credentials, and not his past. Hassan Firuzabadi, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff also responded and without naming anyone said, people should not vote for someone who has tendencies towards the US and Britain, or has shown such tendencies in the past.

Another military official, Gholam-Hossein Gheib-Parvar, the commander of the Fajr Revolutionary Guards Force in Fars province, responded by saying, “According to our criteria, we do not vote for people who sign up at the last minute or those whose registration is first announced by foreign radio stations who rejoice at this.”

Other Candidates

Figures who immediately withdrew their candidacy after Rafsanjani registered his intent to run are Hassan Rowhani, the former head of the supreme nations security council, and Masoud Pezeshkian, a Majlis deputy from the city of Tabriz and a cabinet minister in Khatami’s administration. Akbar Elmi, who had earlier said he would not step down for Rafsanjani, criticized those who had stepped down and said he was not happy that Rafsanjani had registered for the race.

Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leader’s advisor on foreign affairs who is also a presidential hopeful, criticized Mr. Rafsanjani adding that the former president had taken a wrong stance over the post election unrest of 2009 and had abandoned ayatollah Khamenei. He warned, “We shall not diminish our resolve and have decided to not allow those who have an issue with the supreme leader to run the country.”

... Payvand News - 05/15/13 ... --

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