02/25/2016, 17.41
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Iran’s election, a test for Rouhani

by Darius Karimian

Iranians tomorrow pick a new parliament (Majlis) and a new Assembly of Experts. The latter will likely choose a new supreme leader. Moderates and conservatives are in a competitive race only in Tehran. The former want to continue a policy of openness to the world and find diplomatic solutions to Mideast wars; however, the latter control the media, Friday prayers, the army and the Pasdaran.

Teheran (AsiaNews) – Amid doubts about the futility of the election and hopes for the future, some 55 million Iranians will go to the polls tomorrow to elect for four years their 290-member parliament (Majlis) and for eight years the 88-member Assembly of Experts.

For experts, the latter is the most important body since the Assembly chooses the country’s Supreme Guide. The current office holder, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is 79 and very ill. The new assembly is thus expected to pick his successor.

The Supreme Leader plays a crucial role in Iranian politics as the chief of the Armed Forces, the judiciary, communications, and the Guardian Council. The latter vets whether laws adopted by parliament conform to Islamic principles.

Mohammed Khatami, president from 1997 to 2005, saw his reform plans blocked and remains banned from making public appearances or public statements.

The Guardian Council, which acts as the long arm of the supreme leader, disqualified about half of the 12,000 candidates who had applied to run in this election.

Most of those rejected were reformists, including Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the leader of the Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini. Officially, his candidacy was turned down because his religious qualifications could not be verified. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s son Mohsen and daughter Fatemeh were also excluded.

The main groups vying for voters’ support in this election include moderate reformists led by Rafsanjani and current President Hassan Rouhani, and ultraconservatives led by  Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati (head of the Guardian Council), Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi (head of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom), and Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi (described as one the most hard-line conservatives).

Moderates have a running chance only in Tehran where they might get up to 40 per cent of the vote. Elsewhere conservatives hold an overwhelming lead.

After his success on the nuclear issue with the removal of most sanctions, Rouhani and his party stand a good chance. The president himself rests his hopes on reformist candidates winning to continue rebuilding the country’s economy, opening it up to the rest of the world and seeking diplomatic solutions to the various conflicts in which Iran is involved (Syria, Iraq, Yemen).

However, under Khamenei’s patronage, the conservatives still control the media, Friday prayers, the army, and the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran). Unlike Rouhani, they want to maintain tensions high with the rest of the world and remain involved in Mideast wars.

Above all, they want to keep their power and economic monopolies, fearful of ordinary Iranians who are increasingly restive vis-à-vis the ruling ayatollahs seen more and more as "clerical parasites".

If the Rouhani line prevails in the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts, reforms could take off, giving the outgoing president a better chance at re-election when his mandate ends next year.

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