Friday, October 31, 2014


Iran

Banned Rafsanjani Blasts Iran's Leadership

Ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (center, with white turban) arrived at Iran's Interior Ministry within minutes of the official close of registration for would-be candidates on May 11.
Ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (center, with white turban) arrived at Iran's Interior Ministry within minutes of the official close of registration for would-be candidates on May 11.
By Frud Bezhan
Iran’s former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has taken a parting shot at the country’s leadership days after he was disqualified from running in the upcoming presidential election.

The Guardians Council, the powerful election watchdog, omitted Rafsanjani from its final shortlist of candidates. The eight men approved by the 12-member council, which vets all nominees, were mostly conservative candidates loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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The 78-year-old Rafsanjani, addressing members of his campaign team on May 22, accused Iran’s ruling elite, who had opposed his candidacy, of being "ignorant" and incompetent.

"I think it is not possible to run the country worse than this, even if it had been planned in advance," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying by opposition websites Kaleme and Rah-e-Sabz. "I don't want to stoop to their propaganda and attacks, but their ignorance is worrying. Do they even understand what they're doing?"

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Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative, had filed a last-minute application for candidacy in the June 14 presidential election. He had received backing from the country’s marginalized reformists and moderates who hoped the elder statesman could fix Iran’s faltering economy and mend fences with the West.

Ruffled Feathers

But Rafsanjani’s candidacy infuriated hard-liners who believed he would undermine the authority of the supreme leader. His opponents had accused him of "sedition," a reference to the aftermath of the 2009 disputed presidential election, when Rafsanjani criticized the treatment of detainees and implicitly voiced support for the opposition Green Movement.

While addressing his campaign staff, Rafsanjani was also quoted as saying he never thought his candidacy would "bring so much hope to the people." He said if Iran’s establishment had any "wisdom" they would have granted him the right to run for office.

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Rafsanjani, who served as president from 1989 to 1997, added that Iranians should not feel distress over his failed bid to run for the presidency again. "People should not despair at all. There will come a day when those who are destined to come, will come."

The influential Rafsanjani reiterated that he had joined the presidential race only after receiving a flood of support from high-ranking clerics, youths, and academics. He also said Khamenei, with whom Rafsanjani is reported to have a tense relationship, had not opposed his candidacy.

ALSO READ: RFE/RL's Guide To Iran's Presidential Elections

Rafsanjani said his past policies -- including economic liberalization, better relations with the West, and empowering Iran's elected bodies -- was what the Islamic republic needed.

During his address, the former president also made reference to the United States and Israel, calling them the country's "true foreign threats." He accused the two countries of waging "psychological warfare" against Tehran, a reference to Israel’s threat to use military action if Iran does not halt its disputed nuclear program.

Rafsanjani also suggested that Washington was keen to spur separatism among the ethnic Azeri population living in northwest Iran and the country’s volatile Sistan-Baluchistan Province, a Sunni majority region that has been the scene of sporadic attacks by Baluch separatists.

Won't Challenge Exclusion

Rafsanjani’s remarks came as Iranian media reports suggested he had accepted his disqualification. His campaign manager, Eshagh Jahangiri, told the semiofficial ISNA news agency on May 22 that Rafsanjani "will not protest" the decision despite his stature as one of the leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But that did not stop an outpouring of support for Rafsanjani.

Sayed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, sent a letter to Rafsanjani on May 22 expressing his "shock" that the former president had been disqualified. Kaleme quoted Khomeini, a cleric, as saying in the letter that Rafsanjani had "revived people’s hopes" by putting his name forward.

Zahra Mostafavi Khomeini, the former supreme leader’s daughter, had already sent an unprecedented letter to Khamenei on May 21, urging the supreme leader, who has the final say on all state matters, to reinstate Rafsanjani as a candidate to "prevent dictatorship" from taking grip in Iran.

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Frud Bezhan

Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf@rferl.org. 

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