Rafsanjani says Iran hardliners as bad a Trump supporters, dialogue needed

For Yasser Rafsanjani, the son of a former president, Iranian society is physically and politically “sick”, “castrated" by forces outside parliament. Turnout in last week’s election hits low point at 42 per cent with right-wing hardliners as the clear winners. Eight deaths and 43 cases have been reported so far in connection with the coronavirus outbreak.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iranian society is physically and politically “sick” and the country’s democracy has been "castrated" by forces outside Parliament, including various armed militias, said Yasser Rafsanjani in an interview with the British daily The Guardian.

This follows last Friday’s parliamentary election that saw a turnout of only 42 per cent. Iran’s right-wing is expected to win big, especially after thousands of moderate and reformist candidates were barred from running.

Yasser Rafsanjani is the youngest son of the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the architects of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and a powerful figure in the early years of the Islamic republic, including as president (1989-1997).

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Akbar Rafsanjani was commander-in-chief and in 1989 he was instrumental in the rise of Ali Khamenei as the supreme leader of Iran.

As a member of one of the most powerful and respected families, Yasser Rafsanjani’s comments highlight the deep and simmering divisions within the Islamic Republic.

For him, right-wing hardliners are as bad as Trump supporters. Only through talks can the nuclear standoff (and more) between Iran and the United States be settled.

In Iran, “Democracy has become a eunuch,” he said. “It has been castrated. Our society is somehow sick. We are infected by viruses . . . such as coronavirus but also a societal virus where people do not respect others.”

Iran’s military and religious leaders blame the low turnout on the new Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, which has now spread in many parts of the world, including Iran. Iran’s supreme leader also criticised “negative propaganda” by Iran’s enemies.

The latest reports from Iranian authorities about the coronavirus outbreak indicate eight deaths and 43 cases, mostly in the holy city of Qom.

According to the Interior Ministry, the nation-wide turnout was around 42.5 per cent, down sharply from 62 per cent in 2016 and 66 per cent in 2012. In Tehran, only 25 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot. In total, more than 24 million Iranians out of 58 million bothered to vote.

As for the country’s current situation, Yasser Rafsanjani remembers his father and the current president, moderate Hassan Rouhani, in the days of the nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), scrapped by President Trump in May 2018.

“My father said to President Hassan Rouhani when he signed the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), or the Iranian nuclear deal, this agreement has four main enemies: the Arab countries that have enough money to spend, Israel lobbying in the US, Republican hardliners in the US and hardliners in Iran.

“The hardliners in the US and Iran have in effect been cooperating with one another. Now with these elections it shows the Iranian hardliners are getting stronger.”