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Iran: The Reformist And The Ideologue

  • Bill Samii --> Reformist Mustafa Moin Former Minister of Science, Research, and Technology Mustafa Moin's ranking in recent polls in the run-up to the 17 June Iranian presidential election is improving, although he usually trails behind Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Moin was initially disqualified by the Guardians Council and reinstated only after the supreme leader issued a decree to this effect, so observers have been surprised by his relatively strong showing to date. Part of his success is almost certainly due to the role played in his campaign by reformist ideologue Said Hajjarian, the man behind reformist domination of the sixth parliament (2000-04).

Hajjarian served in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in the 1980s, and he later headed the political bureau of the executive branch's Strategic Research Center. He served as publisher of the "Sobh-i Imruz" daily. In Iran's first municipal council elections in 1999, he won a seat in Tehran. In March 2000 he was gravely wounded in an assassination attempt by individuals connected with the Ansar-i Hizbullah pressure group. He now walks with difficulty and is rarely in the limelight. However, Hajjarian has continued his activities with the Islamic Iran Participation Party, which is backing Moin's candidacy.

Hajjarian's early reaction to the election and to Moin's candidacy was hardly enthusiastic. He predicted in late May that voter turnout would not surpass 45 percent and that Moin would poll only about 9 percent, according to "Iran Daily" on 22 May. But soon thereafter Hajjarian began encouraging voters and backing Moin.
He entered the hall in casual clothing, saying that he was dressed this way because he was on his way to receive medical treatment, adding that he does not feel the need to dress formally when he meets with his friends.

Many student activists have called for an election boycott, and some urged Moin to withdraw from the presidential race following his reinstatement. At a late-May meeting of the Office for Strengthening Unity student organization that Hajjarian attended, he encouraged their participation and told the audience that reform requires pressure from the top and from the bottom. However, a majority of the student activists felt that Moin should not compete in the election, "Eqbal" reported on 28 May.

A number of other reformist activists met in late-May to discuss whether Moin should stay in the race, Iranian papers reported on 28 May 2005. At that meeting, Behzad Nabavi of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization recommended that Moin continue, and Mohammad Reza Khatami of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, who would become Moin's running mate, said that even in the current restrictive electoral environment this opportunity could contribute to democratization.

Dressing Down

But it was Hajjarian who made the biggest impression. He entered the hall in casual clothing, saying that he was dressed this way because he was on his way to receive medical treatment, adding that he does not feel the need to dress formally when he meets with his friends. His speech was interrupted frequently by cheers and applause. Some audience members referred to Hajjarian as a "victim on the path of reform." Even though Moin is a candidate because of the supreme leader's decree, Hajjarian said, we must remember that we are reformers. "The difference between reformers and revolutionaries is that reformers make use of even limited opportunities for advancing their goals," he added. Hajjarian went on to say that there should be another reform movement, even if this requires shedding blood.

In early June state television began broadcasting campaign films made by the candidates. Hajjarian had a leading role in Moin's film, which was shown on the evening of 9 June. The film consisted of a fast-paced interview between Moin and a wheelchair-bound Hajjarian, and it was clear that Hajjarian spoke with difficulty and could not move his hands easily.

Moin emphasized that he intends to continue the reform movement that began eight years earlier with President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's election. Asked about the relationship between his proposed reforms and those pursued by the reformist 2nd of Khordad Front, Moin responded: "I think the reforms are still alive, and therefore, I will follow that path. I will stand on the shoulders of the previous reforms and will look, from a higher platform, toward the future." Moin also addressed young people -- whom he described as "living a crisis" with "many questions but no answers" -- and women, saying that "in our country, the rights of women have been violated because religion has been interpreted wrongly."

Exiled journalist Masud Behnud wrote in "Eqbal" on 14 June that "it was the first time the ruling current has allowed the people to see Hajjarian through the porthole of the so-called national media."

Hajjarian continued his efforts on the candidate's behalf. He said at a conference on the election late last week that "a ballot paper is...the nation's blood that is dropped in the ballot boxes." He and other speakers at the conference urged the public to vote, according to "Etemad" on 11 June.

Iranian newspapers are prohibited from publishing any news articles, analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, photographs, or advertisements relating to the campaign on 16 June, the day before the election. This will give voters time to consider whether to vote and, if so, for whom. If turnout is sufficiently high, Moin has a good chance of being the runner-up, according to the best available polls. And if he does, he will owe much of his success to Hajjarian.

See also:

RFE/RL Special: Iran Votes 2005