06/11/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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Iranian elections heat up as outcome remains uncertain

Tensions are rising in Iran after former President Rafsanjani sent a letter to the supreme leader attacking Ahmadinejad. A Revolutionary Guards chief warns reformers whilst the only newspaper openly backing reform-minded Mousavi is shut down. Voting will take place tomorrow and results are expected on Saturday. Outcome is still uncertain.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s presidential election campaign has suddenly become hot just a few days before voters go to the polls. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, current chairman of Expediency Discernment Council, fired off a letter to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, demanding the right to rebut charges laid against him by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For his part the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Political Bureau warns reform-minded leaders against any “velvet” revolution. President Ahmadinejad is a former member of the Guard. Similarly Tehran's Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi banned once again Yas-e No, the only daily newspaper openly backing Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s main opponent.

All this suggest that Supreme Leader Khamenei is throwing his support behind Ahmadinejad and that Iran’s ruling circles are growing concerned that a pro-reform candidate might win as Mohammed Khatami did in 1997 when he won against the supreme leader’s preferred choice, Ayatollah Nateq-Nuri. At the time Khatami took 70 per cent of the vote but once in power he was unable to do much.

Although Khamenei has not officially said for whom he would vote, he has recently heaped praise on the current government. This is a not-so-subtle sign that that the supreme leader is backing Ahmadinejad.

In the last presidential election the outgoing president was not his first choice, but since then the two men have worked out an acceptable modus vivendi. Now both want to prevent the victory of a reformer like Mousavi.

The fact that Ahmadinejad is favoured in high places is not only confirmed by the supreme leader’s silence over Rafsanjani’s request to rebut Ahmadinejad’s charges of accusation on television, but also by a recent statement by a Revolutionary Guards leader.

The Revolutionary Guard, one of the Islamic Republic’s pillars, is closely aligned with Khamenei.

Yadollah Javani, who heads the Guards' Political Bureau, warned that anyone who tried to carry out a “velvet” revolution would see their efforts “nipped in the bud.”  

“There are many indications that some extremist [read reformist] groups are” planning a colour revolution, he said.

His message is clearing directed at Mousavi and his supporters, warning them against any idea that they might pull off what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1989 when student protests led to the peaceful (velvet) collapse of the Communist regime or in the Ukraine in 2004 when orange-clad protesters swept a pro-Russian government from power.

Mousavi supporters in fact tend to wave green scarves, handkerchiefs and flags.

Under the circumstances the publication of Rafsanjani’s letter to Khamenei, in itself an unusual event, appears to be an attempt by people at the other end of the political spectrum to affect the campaign.

Meanwhile no one is venturing to guess who will win, especially in a country of 46 million voters, half of whom under the age of 30 and six voting for the very first time.

The outcome should be known overnight on Friday.

In case no one wins an absolute majority a runoff election will be held the following Friday, 19 June.

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