27 June 2005, Volume 8, Number 25
A NEW PARADIGM AND NEW MATH. The victory of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Iran's 24 June presidential election represents the ascendance of the country's second postrevolution generation and the return of the common man to the country's politics. Although it is irrelevant now, because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has congratulated the winner and effectively endorsed his mandate, Interior Ministry data raises questions about the election. Furthermore, there were complaints of fraud and interference.
The New Paradigm
It does not really matter how Ahmadinejad came to power, he will be the next president. Supreme Leader Khamenei congratulated Ahmadinejad in a message broadcast on state television on 25 June. Khamenei also said that by voting the Iranian people "showed, once again, your greatness to the people of the world, and your power to your bitter and malicious enemies."
The regime is less concerned with the outcome of the election than it is with the fact that it holds them on a fairly regular basis. Thus, it can claim public support and therefore legitimacy. As the case of President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami shows, furthermore, powerful unelected institutions can counter elected officials when their interests are threatened or when it appears that the system will be undermined.
The 48-year-old Ahmadinejad's victory represents the ascendance of the Islamic Revolution's second generation, and Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's loss represents the twilight of the first generation. The Iran-Iraq War shaped the second generation, while opposition to the monarchy and trying to establish an Islamic state shaped the first one. Ahmadinejad's generation sacrificed a great deal in the war, and now it wants something in return. It worked up to this election victory slowly and subtly, emerging from nowhere to win the 2003 municipal-council elections and then building on that to win the 2004 parliamentary elections.
Ahmadinejad's victory also represents the return of the common man to Iranian politics. Parties in postrevolutionary Iran are elite institutions, and at election time they only present voters with a list of recommended candidates. The reformist parties and the 2nd of Khordad Front promoted important issues -- civil society, press freedom, and dialogue -- but they forgot about the basics -- employment, a living wage, and shelter. Ahmadinejad therefore stressed the themes that resonated -- such as job creation when there is double-digit unemployment, and the elimination of corruption. Although some people may worry about Ahmadinejad's conservative stance on cultural and social issues, that is probably irrelevant to the average citizen.
A former member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Ahmadinejad's victory is part of the rightward drift that started a few years ago. But the Revolutionary Guards were quick to remind Ahmadinejad that there are limits to how far he can go. In a 25 June statement it told him to stay true to his campaign promises, the Iranian Labor News Agency reported. This could be a reminder that he is indebted to the Guards Corps for his victory and should not threaten its economic interests, or it could be a reminder that the corps has a constitutionally defined political role.
How Did He Win?
Analysis of Interior Ministry data suggests that something is amiss in the Ahmadinejad victory. There were 46,786,418 eligible voters, and 27,959,253 of them voted on 24 June, for a total turnout of almost 60 percent. The previous week, 29,439,982 people voted, for a turnout of almost 63 percent.
In the second round of the election, Ahmadinejad received 17,248,782 votes, while in the first round he got 5,710,354 votes. How did he gather an additional 11.5 million votes in one week? Even if voter participation remained the same, and if Ahmadinejad received the 5,815,352 votes that went to the other hard-line candidates in the first round -- Ali Larijani and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf -- that would only amount to 11,525,706. It defies logic that under circumstances where there were fewer people voting, support for Ahmadinejad almost tripled.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani received 10,046,701 votes on 24 June, while he got 6,159,453 votes the previous week. Obviously, not all Iranians who backed reformist candidates in the first round (Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, and Mustafa Moin) backed Hashemi-Rafsanjani, or he would have received their 10,409,943 votes, for a total of 16,569,396. This would indicate that approximately 6 million voters stayed home, yet according to the official turnout figures, there were only 1.5 million fewer voters on 24 June.
In the second round of the election, 663,770 ballots were spoiled (approximately 2 percent), compared to 1,221,940 spoiled ballots the previous week (approximately 4 percent). Apparently, people were much more careful and wanted to be sure their votes counted.
This kind of quantitative analysis is useful, but in the Iranian case it has serious limitations. The greatest shortcoming is that the Iranian government does not give access to independent foreign observers. They cannot visit polling places to observe voter behavior, and there is no telling what happens to the ballot boxes when they are transferred from the polling station to the counting area. One is therefore dependent on whatever figures the regime chooses to provide, and in the absence of direct evidence to the contrary, it is purely speculative to say there was fraud.
Problems On Election Day
Some untoward incidents during election day could encourage questions about the final result. According to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), security personnel arrested an Interior Ministry official who was trying to inspect a polling station, and in northern Tehran members of the semi-official Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Vice unit (Amr be Maruf va Nahi az Monker) prevented people from voting. The interference got so bad that the Interior Ministry tried unsuccessfully to close some polling stations. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani added, "Reporting of violations of the Election Law at such a broad level is quite unprecedented and according to the latest reports the violations are no longer limited to trivial illegal affairs."
After his release from police custody, Interior Ministry director of parliamentary affairs Ali Mirbaqeri said he witnessed Guardians Council interference at all the polling stations he visited, IRNA reported. "The monitors of the Guardians Council were not only filling out the tariffs and controlling the voters' IDs, but also constantly issuing orders for everyone," he said. Mirbaqeri said council officials confined him to a room for two hours and then turned him over to the police, who held him for another 2 1/2 hours.
Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the losing candidate, congratulated his rival on 25 June, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. But he too referred to foul play by his opponents and noted the pointlessness of complaining to the body charged with supervising elections, the Guardians Council. "I do not intend to take my complaint about the elections to those arbitrators who have proved that they do not want, or cannot, do anything," he said. "I only seek my right in the court of divine justice...." His rivals, Hashemi-Rafsanjani noted, "have interfered in the elections by utilizing the facilities of the [Islamic] system in an organized and illegitimate manner."
Foreign and local reporting on Iranian affairs focuses on Tehran, the capital, so little is known about voter behavior in the provinces. As of 25 June, furthermore, the Interior Ministry website had not updated its provincial data. From an analytical perspective, this data could be interesting if it is not manipulated by the regime first. For Iranians and the rest of the world, however, learning to live with a new Iranian paradigm will be more important. (Bill Samii)
KHATAMI ENCOURAGES VOTERS... President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami on 21 June urged people to vote in the 24 June presidential runoff even if they did not do so in the 17 June first-round election, state television reported. He called on his compatriots to show their "resolve to rebuild the homeland, strengthen the foundations of democracy, defend the nation's rights and freedom," and also to contribute to stability, national security, development, and dignity. (Bill Samii)
...BUT EBADI WILL NOT VOTE. Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi said on 23 June that she is boycotting the next day's presidential election in Iran, Radio Farda reported, citing AFP. She said the final outcome of the election is irrelevant because the candidates are not very different and because the election itself is illegitimate. Ebadi called for acts of civil disobedience, such as a boycott. "The votes that come out of the boxes are valid as long as they have been the results of a free election," she said. "Can you say Saddam Hussein's regime was legitimate or the elections fine just because he got 99 percent of the vote?"
Ebadi also rejected speculation that Ahmadinejad will reverse reforms, saying, "Freedom is a one-way street. What has been achieved cannot be taken away. People will simply not allow it." Ebadi accused the Hashemi-Rafsanjani campaign of scaremongering in order to get votes. She said Khatami was the best Iranian president ever and praised his exposure of the murder of intellectuals and dissidents in the late-1990s by Ministry of Intelligence and Security personnel. (Bill Samii)
HASHEMI-RAFSANJANI BACKED BY FIVE DEFEATED CANDIDATES. "We have no major problem with any country, apart from Israel, which is not a legitimate country," Hashemi-Rafsanjani noted on a 21 June state television program. He said Iran and the United States worked closely in the past and added that Iran still uses many American aircraft and other types of equipment. He went on to say that he tried to restore Iran-U.S. relations during his presidency. He expressed the belief that if the United States ends what he sees as its hostility and if it shows goodwill, the relationship can be restored. "If America released our assets which they have blocked for no reason at all...then, we would see that [the Americans] want to work with us and we would enter negotiations," he said. "We are still waiting for that sign of goodwill."
In the same 21 June program on state television, Hashemi-Rafsanjani outlined his election plans. As president, he said, he would focus on, among other things, poverty eradication, economic development, and job creation. Those living below the poverty line should get government help with food, housing, education, and health care. He mentioned targeted subsidies and housing that young people can afford. He expressed the belief that the unemployment can be reduced to less than 10 percent in five years. Unemployment is estimated today to be in excess of 20 percent.
On the same day, Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a Shi'ite, met with Sunni parliamentarians and said there should be no discrimination in Iran, Mehr News Agency reported.
Five of the first-round losers in Iran's 17 June presidential election on 21 June threw their support behind Hashemi-Rafsanjani for the second round on 24 June, the Mehr News Agency reported. The five are Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Ali Larijani, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, Mustafa Moin, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, according to Hashemi-Rafsanjani campaign manager Mahmud Vaezi, the agency reported. A directive from Vaezi to campaign headquarters throughout the country encourages cooperation.
The head of Moin's campaign, Ali Shakurirad, confirmed on 21 June that it will back Hashemi-Rafsanjani, ILNA reported. This means that none of the losing candidates are backing the other candidate in the race, Ahmadinejad. Shakurirad also said that all the parties that backed Moin, including the nationalist-religious forces, now back Hashemi-Rafsanjani. (Bill Samii)
HARD-LINE IRANIAN CANDIDATE LEADS IN VOTER SURVEYS. Ms. Nura, who heads the women's section of Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani's campaign, predicted in a 22 June interview with Radio Farda that her candidate will secure 10-15 million votes in the presidential runoff scheduled for 24 June.
Pre-election surveys indicated that Mahmud Ahmadinejad was the most popular candidate. In a poll of 3,435 people in 12 provinces conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency on 21 June, Fars News Agency reported on 22 June. Ahmadinejad earned 1,500 votes, Hashemi-Rafsanjani earned 1,302 votes, and 633 voters were undecided. Furthermore, 62.6 percent said they will definitely vote and 11.4 percent said they might vote. The poll took place in Ardabil, Boir Ahmad and Kohkiluyeh, Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiar, Gilan, Hamedan, Isfahan, Khorasan Razavi, Kurdistan, Markazi (Central), Tehran, West Azerbaijan, and Zanjan Provinces. Hashemi-Rafsanjani led in Gilan, Kurdistan, and Tehran, while Ahmadinejad led in the other provinces. The margin of error was not provided.
In a survey conducted by the Iranian Students Polling Agency on 23 June, one day before the runoff, Ahmadinejad was the most popular candidate (http://www.ispa.ir). He earned 41.9 percent of the votes cast by 6101 people in 25 provinces, compared to 41.5 percent for Hashemi-Rafsanjani (2,555 versus 2,531). In the poll, 14.1 percent were undecided and 2.5 percent backed neither candidate. The margin of error was not provided.
A statement from the Ansar-i Hizbullah in Isfahan endorsed the candidacy of Ahmadinejad, Radio Farda reported on 20 June. The hard-line group referred to the candidate's dedication to the values of the Basij and Hizbullah (yek Basiji-yi mokhles va Hizbullahi) and it said he will restore a Koranic order after securing the presidency. The statement said girls will have to wear the proper hijab, access to improper websites will be blocked, university professors infatuated with the West (gharbzadeh) will be banned, and satellite receivers will be eliminated. The statement added that Ahmadinejad will confront newspapers that are antireligious, secular, or that promote Western democracy. He will ban Western tourists who do not respect Islamic values, and he will act against antireligious films.
Finally, the Ansar-i Hizbullah statement said that if elected president, Ahmadinejad will "punch in the mouth" all those who advocate relations with the United States.
Mohsen Ahmadi, who previously handled tribal and rural affairs for the presidential campaign of Ali Larijani, said on 21 June that the Bakhtiari, Qashqai, Kohkiluyeh, and Khamseh tribes have vowed to back Ahmadinejad in the runoff, Fars News Agency reported. Ahmadi said this decision was reached at a meeting of 60 tribal elders that day. A 21 June statement from 132 parliamentarians expressed support for Ahmadinejad, Mehr News Agency reported. Ahmadinejad is a member of the Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society's (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami) central council, and it has backed him, as have a number of conservative student organizations and some seminarians from Qom.
Parliamentarian Fatemeh Alia said in a 22 June interview with Radio Farda that Ahmadinejad will eliminate the aqazadehs (offspring of important clerics) from the oil industry and the stock exchange, which they currently control. Currently, she said, those with access to power get wealthy while those without such access get poorer.
On the same day, "Siyasat-i Ruz" newspaper reported that Ahmadinejad met with legislators and told them he intends to eliminate the role of certain families in the oil industry and other economic areas. He put this in the context of his campaign against corruption and privilege, and added that he does not oppose the stock market. Ahmadinejad said people are propagandizing against him because of his anticorruption campaign.
On state television on 22 June, Ahmadinejad denied allegations that he opposes the stock exchange.
Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh has said that he worries about the future of the oil industry if Hashemi-Rafsanjani does not win the presidential runoff, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 22 July. The secretary-general of the Tehran Stock Exchange, Hussein Abdeh-Tabrizi, said in a letter to "Farhang-i Ashti" that Hashemi-Rafsanjani is the best choice. The newspaper reported on the same day that Ahmadinejad told the Hatef website that the stock market is like gambling, and it should be stopped. In a meeting with legislators, furthermore, Ahmadinejad said, "I am opposed to middleman jobs instead of productive jobs."
Nationalist-religious activist Mohammad Maleki told Radio Farda on 22 June that scare tactics --including accusations of fascism -- are being employed to persuade people to support Hashemi-Rafsanjani instead of Ahmadinejad. Maleki said Iranians are already enduring fascism. Who is elected is less important than how many people vote, Maleki said. There is little difference between a Hashemi-Rafsanjani or an Ahmadinejad presidency, he said, because the orders come from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Maleki also dismissed speculation that Ahmadinejad was the supreme leader's choice all along. Iran's big problem is not the difference between candidates, Maleki said, the problem is the constitution. (Bill Samii)
ALARMED POLITICIANS URGE VOTERS TO CHOOSE HASHEMI-RAFSANJANI. In the second round of Iran's presidential election on 24 June, voters must choose between the very right-wing Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the more cautious former President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who heads the Expediency Council, a key arbitrating body.
Many Iranians have responded by forming a "national movement" to prevent the election of Ahmadinejad, who is being presented as a reactionary, while Rafsanjani is depicted as the last-ditch defender of minimal rights and liberties. The popularity that eluded Rafsanjani but was present in the eight-year presidency of Mohammad Khatami -- especially evident when Rafsanjani failed to win a seat in the 2001 parliamentary elections -- has suddenly been thrust upon him.
Rafsanjani's supporters include Ayatollah Jalaledin Taheri, a prominent supporter of Khatami's reforms and popular former preacher in the central Isfahan Province. He stated his support on 20 June, IRNA reported. Seyyed Hadi Khamenei, a left-wing cleric and brother of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged voters on 20 June to hand Rafsanjani "the sapling of political and social liberties and civil rights," ISNA reported. Ahmad Shirzad of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front told Mehr agency on 20 June that "we think Mr. Hashemi will cause us fewer problems than the other candidate." Three pro-reform organizations -- the Democracy Party the Islamic Iran Solidarity Party, and the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization -- have stated their support for Rafsanjani.
Candidates who lost in the first round have also reportedly moved to Rafsanjani's side. They include Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, who initially criticized Rafsanjani's candidacy and blamed him for many of Iran's existing problems, but also Ali Larijani, who is often described as "close" to the supreme leader. Reformist candidate Mustafa Moin said on 21 June that he would vote for Rafsanjani, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day.
Rafsanjani has even managed to wrench the support of dissidents who have known prison and harassment in past years. Emadedin Baqi, a writer jailed for articles he wrote about the murder of dissidents in the 1990s -- during and shortly after the Rafsanjani presidencies -- said on 20 June that as a "human rights activist, I am sounding the alarm bell," ISNA reported the same day. "Reformers and some of the men of reason in the right-wing faction must unite so the candidate opposed to Hashemi is not elected," he said. Another dissident, Ezzatollah Sahabi, said on 20 June that "all people and groups must support" Rafsanjani, IRNA reported that day, "even those who boycotted the polls." The list of supporters goes on: former parliament members, moderate conservatives, representatives of the Chaldean and Assyrian Christian minorities, prominent clerics.
And Rafsanjani, seemingly elated, has risen to these calls and the perceived urgency of a victory. Usually noncommittal on controversial issues, he deplored in a 20 June statement the "shocking instances of abuse [against candidates] and unjust, organized interventions" on polling day, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 21 June. The complaints of "my brother" Karrubi must be addressed, Rafsanjani said. More vigorously, he told students from Tehran University on 21 June that he would use "all means" to prevent the Guardians Council from trying to change votes in the next round. "If the system tries to act above the law, it will face problems," he said, IRNA reported that day. Students clapped and whistled in response, it was reported, as they might have done before with Khatami. He said the present conditions require "an open atmosphere where people are not afraid to state their mind," while his 20 June statement mentioned "safeguarding political and social liberties, and attention to women's rights," as items on his presidential agenda.
Rafsanjani echoed Khatami's calls for lawfulness, speaking to Tehran students on 21 June, and said all people in Iran, including students and journalists, must respect the law. The law, he added, "may not be good, and what is legal today may become a better law, but...the way is to act lawfully," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. He cautioned students that "if anyone breaks the law, they cannot expect" not to be prosecuted, whether the offenses are "political or not," the daily added.
Rafsanjani promised not to let "parallel bodies" interfere in state security work, and approved of the "present methods" of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, which the Khatami government said has been purged of lawless agents who were accused of killing dissident Iranians in the 1990s. "I will not let them interfere in the intelligence ministry's work," he said. The reforms he said he initiated and that Khatami pursued, "must move forward and nobody wishes to oppose that."
Rafsanjani appeared to reach the limits of his democratic potential when he said he would oppose unjust imprisonments, and students shouted out the name of Akbar Ganji, a dissident jailed for critical writings not unrelated to Rafsanjani's political past. Ganji, he said, "is also an instance that must be examined," but remained silent when a student suggested he should, as candidate Moin proposed earlier, present parliament with a general amnesty bill if elected.
These comments contrast with Ahmadinejad's reported plans for social restrictions. Legislator Javad Arianmanesh told ILNA on 20 June that Ahmadinejad told legislators that day that he would curb "networks of cultural vulgarity," a possible reference to illegal satellite dishes and foreign CDs available to many Iranians. Another legislator, Laleh Eftekhari, told ILNA the same day that Ahmadinejad's "cultural policies," including the proposed segregation of men and women in universities, parks, and elevators, follow "Islamic laws" and are "a leading demand of the public."
A 22 June editorial in the reformist "Aftab-i Yazd" daily called Rafsanjani a "shield against extremism" and urged him to "respond positively" to his new coalition of supporters. Iranians -- and Rafsanjani -- must be considering the irony in this unexpected turn of affairs. But as reformers who started their political lives as revolutionaries have shown, politicians can change from left-wing radicals to moderates or even dissidents in response to changing times, as too may Rafsanjani. He is already a reputed friend of economic liberalization: on 21 June, he said he would work to boost stock market investment and link the Tehran exchange to "world markets," ILNA reported. Time will tell if he has also become a friend of political liberties. (Vahid Sepehri)
TEHRAN GETS A NEW PARLIAMENTARIAN. Alireza Mahjub has won a runoff on 17 June to become Tehran's 30th member of parliament, IRNA reported on 20 June. Taking place at the same time were parliamentary by-elections for the constituencies of Iranshahr and Sarbaz; Ilam, Eivan, Shirvan, Chardaval, and Mehran; Babolsar and Fereidun-Kenar; Bam; Shiraz; Qorveh; Qazvin and Abyek; Gachsaran; Garmsar; and Marand and Jolfa. Results for these constituencies were not available on the Interior Ministry website. (Bill Samii)
ETHNICITY AND REGIONAL INTERESTS PLAY OUT IN FIRST-ROUND VOTE. Close attention to ethnic interests during the current presidential campaign paid off for at least one candidate during the 17 June first-round voting. Mustafa Moin, despite ending up in fifth place overall, topped the list in a province predominantly inhabited by a religious minority. Another candidate, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, won almost all the provinces where members of his ethnic minority predominate. But an examination of provincial voting patterns reveals that these factors ultimately did not play a decisive role in the outcome.
The majority of Iran's 69 million people practice Shi'a Islam, while some 9 percent of them are Sunni Muslims, including most of the country's Baluchis and Turkmens and some of its Kurds. According to the Iranian Constitution, Shi'a Islam is the state religion and other schools of Islam are fully respected. Indeed, a number of state officials are of Kurdish origin, although it is not clear if they are Sunnis. The constitution also notes that the official language is Persian. The use of regional and tribal languages in print and broadcast media and the teaching of the languages in schools is allowed.
Minorities sometimes complain of insufficient attention in state hiring practices and uneven government representation. They also have complaints that are more regionally oriented and focus on issues such as economic development and unemployment. Minorities occasionally complain about the poor quality of state radio and television programming in their languages.
Complaints about discrimination, however, are not the same as separatist demands. Most of the minorities see themselves as Iranians and they want to be treated as equal to the rest of their compatriots. Furthermore, unemployment is a fact all Iranians contend with, not just minorities.
Minorities received much more attention in this year's election than they have in the past, and candidate Mustafa Moin made a special effort to get the Sunnis' support. He emphasized the slogan "Iran for all Iranians" in his campaign, and he stressed equal rights for all his compatriots. During his visits to the provinces, Moin noted that ethnic groups in Iran have not been treated properly either historically or currently. He said, according to "Mardom Salari" newspaper on 6 June, "All Iranian ethnic groups have the basic right to be present in the social, political, and economic spheres, as well as at all levels of responsibility, including high-ranking management positions, members of the government, or in charge of different regions."
A statement from Baluchi reformers referred to "mistreatment of Baluchis and historical discrimination practiced against this ethnic minority," "Eqbal" reported on 11 June. They said that Moin's views are mature, broad-minded, and noble. They noted that for a change state broadcasting describes the rights of women and Iranian ethnic and religious minorities, and "this is an unprecedented event whose rival can be found neither before nor after the revolution." The Baluchis said they back Moin.
Prominent Sunnis met with Moin in Tehran in early June, and he promised that the human rights ministry he plans will have a Sunni affairs department, "Eqbal" reported on 11 June. He also promised to have Sunni cabinet members. The Sunnis then declared their support for Moin, and subsequently, this was announced at the Sunnis' Friday prayers. In the Sistan va Baluchistan Province city of Zahedan in southeastern Iran, thousands of worshippers went to Moin's campaign headquarters to offer their support.
Some observers would argue that Iran's minorities are better off now than they were under the prerevolution monarchy, thereby implying that they should be grateful for whatever they get and should stop demanding their constitutional rights. They also assert that much has been done for minorities during the eight-year presidency of Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami.
Sunni political and cultural activist Molavi Abdolmajid Moradzehi-Khashi is less enamored of Khatami. He said Sunnis were active in the reform movement and voted overwhelmingly for Khatami, "Eqbal" reported on 11 June. They expected to play a bigger part in managing the country. "But, unfortunately, this expectation was not fulfilled and we have been deprived of our legal and civil rights, not just in the past eight years, but during the past 26 years." He described Sunni demands such as cabinet membership, governorship, or ambassadorships. He also mentioned membership in the Expediency Council, the Guardians Council, or the judiciary.
Other demands described by Moradzehi-Khashi are connected with their faith. "Other demands of Sunnis are their religious freedoms, without the arbitrary and personal interventions of certain centers and individuals. Just as other religious minorities, such as the Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians, have their own places of worship in the country, especially in large cities, the Sunni community too has the legal and Islamic right to have their own mosques and temples in Tehran and other large cities."
Moin's attention to Sunnis and their endorsement of his candidacy paid off. He was the top vote getter in Sistan va Baluchistan Province; in fact, it was the only province he carried. Moin earned 479,125 votes, compared to his next closest competitor, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who earned 155,147 votes.
Moin also promised to help the ethnic Arabs of Khuzestan Province, most of whom are Shi'a. During a visit to Ahvaz, the provincial capital, he promised to support the demands of the Arab minority as described by the Islamic Horizon Party (Hezb-i Afaq-i Islami), "Eqbal" reported on 12 June. Their demands focus on the elimination of discriminatory images of minorities in textbooks, and the wider use of Arabic in publications. They also call for a census of the ethnic groups so state planning would more accurately reflect their needs. Job quotas for the ethnic Arabs in Khuzestan, as well as the appointments of Arabs to senior government positions, are other demands.
Moin did not win in Khuzestan, where Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi received the highest number of votes.
In other cases, people voted for somebody from the area, presumably in the hope that he will pay greater attention to local needs. The local son, it is hoped, will have greater familiarity with local needs and will direct a greater proportion of the state budget to that area.
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf is from Mashhad, in the eastern part of the country. He was the top vote-getter in the eastern provinces of Khorasan Razavi and North Khorasan. He did not win any other provinces.
Another candidate, Vice President for Physical Training Mohsen Mehralizadeh, is an ethnic Azeri from western Iran. Mehralizadeh won in provinces that are home to many Azeris -- Ardabil, East Azerbaijan, and West Azerbaijan. Interestingly, the former governor of Ardabil, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, finished second to last there.
Ethnicity and local ties do not explain voter behavior completely. Karrubi won his home province of Luristan. But he won nine other provinces -- Boir Ahmad va Kohkiluyeh, Bushehr, Fars, Gulistan, Hamedan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Kurdistan. He did campaign in the western part of the country, and his long presence on the political scene certainly made voters familiar with his name.
Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who is the mayor of Tehran and who also grew up there, won in the capital and he also won in the Central (Markazi) Province where the city lies. But he also won in seven other provinces -- Chahar Mahal va Bakhtiari, Isfahan, Qazvin, Qom, Semnan, South Khorasan, and Yazd.
In these and other cases, voters were reacting to active campaigning or were involved with organized networks, be they parties, mosques, or military institutions. There is another possible explanation for the final outcome. As some candidates, most vociferously Karrubi, have alleged, the Basij Resistance Force and the Guardians Council interfered on behalf of Ahmadinejad.
The interest in ethnicity continues in the days before the 24 June runoff. In a 22 June interview with state television, Ahmadinejad was asked about the role of the minorities in strengthening national solidarity. Ahmadinejad praised diversity and discussed the beauty of traditional costumes. In a state television interview the same evening, Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad's opponent in the second round, said the rights of all Iranians, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation, should be respected. (Bill Samii)
A NEW GENERATION AND THE DRIFT TO THE RIGHT. The 24 June second round of the Iranian presidential election pits two individuals with very different backgrounds against one another -- Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani versus Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
The former represents an older generation that opposed the monarchy and has 2 1/2 decades experience in national leadership. The latter represents a younger generation whose formative experience was the Iran-Iraq War and which wants a greater say in the country's affairs. That older generation appears to be losing control to the younger one, and this election represents a high point in a continuing political struggle.
The 70-year-old Hashemi-Rafsanjani's involvement with politics dates to the early 1960s, when he began his association with the dissident cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. After the 1979 revolution, this relationship and Hashemi-Rafsanjani's political skills led to him becoming one of the country's most powerful figures. He served as speaker of parliament from 1980-89 and president from 1989-97. More importantly, while president he became chairman of the Expediency Council, a body tasked with adjudicating in legislative disputes between the parliament and the Guardians Council, that also advises the supreme leader. The council, furthermore, is involved with constitutional revisions.
As chairman of the Expediency Council, Hashemi-Rafsanjani is already one of the country's most powerful individuals, and being president at the same time would strengthen his hand immensely. He is very influential informally, too, through the patron-client relationships and personal networks that result from his lengthy involvement in politics, through his extended family, and through his clerical ties.
Hashemi-Rafsanjani's position on most issues is well-known in the West because he has made an effort to be accessible to media outlets such as the BBC, CNN, "The New York Times," and "USA Today."
The 48-year-old Ahmadinejad has not received as much public attention. According to his website (http://www.mardomyar.ir), he is the fourth son of an ironworker who had seven children. He earned a doctorate in civil engineering at the University of Science and Engineering in Tehran in 1997. In 1986, he joined the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and served in its intelligence and security apparatus, participating in operations around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk and in the western part of Iran. Ahmadinejad went on to serve as governor of Ardabil Province. In April 2003 Ahmadinejad was appointed mayor of Tehran by the capital's municipal council, which is dominated by the hard-line Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami).
Ahmadinejad is a member of the central council of the hard-line Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami), according to his website. The Devotees, however, publicly endorsed another candidate in the 17 June first round of the presidential election. After his loss, that candidate complained of betrayal by his supposed supporters. In some of Ahmadinejad's public statements, furthermore, he has appeared to identify himself as a Developer. Both the Developers and the Devotees represent a younger generation of revolutionary Iranians, particularly those with a background in the Revolutionary Guards and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Ahmadinejad's candidacy, therefore, represents the rise of a new generation, as well as a rightward drift in Iranian politics.
Stepping back from the machinations of party politics, it is difficult to understand Ahmadinejad's seeming popularity across the country and his ability to secure more votes than better-known candidates, such as former speaker of parliament Mehdi Karrubi or former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. They and the other candidates have been in the national spotlight for many years, and they campaigned throughout the provinces. Although Ahmadinejad has been politically active, it was only after he became Tehran mayor that he became nationally known. He did not campaign as aggressively as his competitors. Indeed, he only carried 10 of the provinces, including Tehran. Alleged electoral interference by the Basij and the Guardians Council on his behalf may explain an otherwise inexplicable rise in his political fortunes.
Some of the contrasts between Ahmadinejad and his rival were borne out in a in a 19 June television program. Ahmadinejad's representative took a swipe at the children of the wealthy, and he said that although the names have changed the rule of the pre-revolutionary Thousand Families (the pre-revolutionary aristocracy) continues. He promised that Ahmadinejad's cabinet would include young people. When Hashemi-Rafsanjani's representative said the country needs evolution rather than another revolution, Ahmadinejad's representative retorted that the country's current management has grown rigid and unresponsive and a revolution is necessary. When the two argued about Basij involvement in the election, Hashemi-Rafsanjani's representative said the Basij must not intervene in politics.
Ahmadinejad has taken a populist stand on domestic issues. He referred to the problems of the underclass in an 8 June state television interview. Ahmadinejad said resolution of the unemployment problem requires financial support from the state, land distribution to farmers, and promotion of small workshops. He went on to say that the state should employ people directly, rather than using contractors, and state employees should receive housing and good wages. He called for use of 1 percent of the state budget to create a Young People's Fund that would, among other things, create jobs.
In a 7 June interview on state television, Ahmadinejad said Iran is the target of a destructive Western cultural onslaught. It intends to undermine the self-confidence of Iranian managers and influence the young. He said teachers must have greater access to resources.
Ahmadinejad said during a campaign visit to Yasuj, Boir Ahmadi va Kohkiluyeh Province, that the gap between rich and poor is increasing, "Kayhan" reported on 6 June. As Tehran's mayor he was behind a crackdown on social freedoms in the capital and he banned billboards with the picture of British soccer player David Beckham, "The Guardian" and "The Independent" reported on 20 June.
Turning to foreign affairs, Ahmadinejad said in the 8 June interview on state broadcasting that he promotes relations with all other countries on the basis of respect, IRNA reported. In order of priority, he said, relations with immediate neighbors are the most important, followed by countries that were once part of the Persian Empire. Then come Muslim states, and last but not least, states that are not hostile to Iran. Turning to the United Nations, Ahmadinejad said its structure is "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam." He described nuclear energy as an achievement and a right of the nation, adding, "No one can deprive the Iranian nation of this right."
He does not seem friendly towards the United States. "America's unilateral move to sever its ties with the Islamic Republic was aimed at destroying the Islamic Revolution," he says on his website. "And it is for the same reason that America is trying to reestablish relations with Iran." He said Iran should resume relations with the United States only after careful consideration of its interests.
Ahmadinejad's statements, his background and experience, and his associations give a strong impression of what one can expect from him as president. He is likely to get more cooperation from the hard-line-dominated legislature than President Mohammad Khatami did, and given the alleged Guardians Council support for his presidential bid, he will not encounter any resistance there. For the international community, the implication is that an Ahmadinejad presidency will result in a greater focus on Third Worldism in Iranian foreign policy. And if Iran seemed uncooperative on the nuclear issue so far, it will just get worse under Ahmadinejad. (Bill Samii)
GUARDS CORPS TO CONTINUE ELECTION INVOLVEMENT. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander General Yahya Rahim-Safavi said on 20 June that participation in the 24 June presidential runoff is a duty, ISNA reported. "Therefore, all commanders, officials, [Revolution] Guards personnel and Basijis [Basij Resistance Force personnel] must concentrate their efforts on maximizing the number of people who go to the ballot box to ensure that the next president will have a suitable number of votes which will give him a mandate for his actions in the future," Rahim-Safavi continued. He stressed that IRGC personnel cannot campaign on behalf of or against any of the candidates. Candidates and their supporters have alleged that IRGC and Basij personnel interfered in the first round of the election. (Bill Samii)
ELECTION INVESTIGATION LEADS TO ARRESTS. The first round of the presidential election came in for criticism from many observers, including two of the unsuccessful candidates, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi and Mustafa Moin (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 20 June 2005). Some continued to criticize the election in the following days, and in fact, the government made some arrests.
Iran's most well-known student organization, the Office for Strengthening Unity, condemned the election, Radio Farda reported on 21 June. Reza Delbari, a member of the organization's central council, told Radio Farda that in the first hours of vote-counting at least 3.3 percent of the ballots were spoiled. But when the count went from 20 million ballots to 22 million, zero spoiled ballots were counted. At the 23 million mark, he said, the count of spoiled ballots suddenly went to 15.3 percent. When the vote count reached 27 million, suddenly there were just 1 million spoiled ballots, he claimed. Delbari did not say where he got this information.
Less enamored of the losing candidates' claims of fraud is Tehran University Professor Sadegh Zibakalam, although in an interview with Radio Farda he conceded that there could have been problems in remote parts of the country. Zibakalam said fraud is more difficult in Tehran, where Mahmud Ahmadinejad won with about 1.5 million votes.
Guardians Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati instructed Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi to recount a random sample of ballots in the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Qom, and Mashhad, state radio reported on 20 June.
Jannati confirmed the fairness of the election in a 20 June letter to Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari, state television reported. Jannati said the council did not receive any formal complaints about the election until after the deadline, when it got a letter from fifth-place finisher Mustafa Moin. He added: "The letter sent by Mr. Moin's headquarters only included general statements without any legal evidence calling for the postponement of the runoff."
Turning to the complaints of another unsuccessful candidate, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, Jannati said the Guardians Council authorized the Interior Minister to recount the votes in a sample of ballot boxes. "Accordingly, it became clear that there were no doubts in the result of the votes and the election process."
The fears of possible fraud persisted. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami instructed the interior, intelligence and security, and justice ministers to ensure that the second round of the election on 24 June went smoothly, Fars News Agency reported on 23 June. "Unfortunately the destructive and immoral actions executed against the respected candidates, which started in the first round, have continued extensively in the second round," Khatami said. He referred to the attribution of false statements to senior religious figures. He also said state entities were involved in the electoral violations: "We have had reports suggesting electoral offences committed by responsible bodies whose job is to prevent such offences. These bodies should be dealt with immediately and without leniency."
A 23 June report from the Baztab website said Khatami has created a committee from the Interior, Intelligence and Security, and Justice ministries, the Judiciary, and the Armed Forces Judicial Organization. From the first round of voting, the committee found 104 campaign and election violations, which led to 26 arrests. For example, Ali Badri was arrested for mass producing and distributing CDs that defamed a candidate; a security official in Qazvin was arrested for signing a contract to produce posters that defamed a candidate; and a well-known military official was arrested and charged with defaming a candidate and having his speech distributed on a CD. Charges have been brought against 44 members of a military organization for campaign-related activities.
Karaj parliamentary representative Fatemeh Ajarlu on 23 June called for increased vigilance about the possible buying and selling of votes in the second round of the presidential election, Fars News Agency reported. She added that she has heard rumors about the distribution of duplicate birth certificates. (Bill Samii)
LEBANESE SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT VISITS IRAN. Nabih Berri, the Lebanese parliament speaker, arrived in Tehran on 18 June for a three-day visit. On 18 June, Berri met with his counterpart Gholamali Haddad-Adel, IRNA and the Lebanese National News Agency (LNNA) reported. Haddad-Adel told his guest that the United States is using democracy as a pretext to try and dominate the Islamic world. Haddad-Adel congratulated his counterpart on Lebanon's recent elections. Berri responded: "[The] Iranian nation...[with its] wide participation in this election nullified [the] negative propaganda of the Western media concerning a lack of democracy in Iran," IRNA reported. Haddad-Adel added: "Iran stands alongside the unity of the Lebanese people and their support of the Lebanese resistance in confronting the Israeli enemy," LNNA reported.
Berri met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 19 June, IRNA reported. Khamenei congratulated Lebanon, saying that by resisting Israel it succeeded in expelling Israeli, Western, and U.S. troops from Lebanon. Khamenei praised the extension of Lebanese President Emil Lahud's term in office, because it angered the United States, he said. Khamenei also criticized U.S. regional peace plans. Berri met with Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on 20 June, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
IRAN PARTICIPATES IN IRAQI DONOR CONFERENCE IN BRUSSELS. Representatives from some 80 countries -- including Iran -- and international organizations met in Brussels for a donors conference on Iraq co-sponsored by the United States and European Union on 22 June, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported. The conference was aimed at persuading donors to follow through with earlier financial commitments while allowing the Iraqi transitional government to present its priorities and strategies for the transitional period, including a plan to combat the insurgency.
"On the security front, efforts are being intensified to raise the efficiency of the Iraqi forces so as to limit the terrorist threats with the aim of arriving at self-sufficiency, where it would be possible to do without the presence of the multinational forces. The Iraqi forces have made qualitative strides toward security and stability. Hence, the security situation in the capital, Baghdad, and the rest of Iraqi cities has improved at tangible rates," Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari said in his opening remarks to the conference. "The elected interim Iraqi government insists on walking the path of political and economic reconstruction and achieving security with all seriousness and courage. It appeals to you to support the security, political, and economic process," he added.
Donor states at the Brussels conference endorsed a plan set forth by the transitional Iraqi government and pledged to aid Iraqi efforts on the political, economic, and security level, according to the conference statement posted on the EU Council website (http://ue.eu.int). The statement called on Iraq and regional states to enhance cooperation to prevent cross-border transit and support for terrorists, and participants "underlined the importance of other members of the international community joining ongoing regional and multilateral efforts" to enhance Iraqi security. Although no specifics were given, that support will likely come in the training of Iraqi security forces. Iraqi officials at the conference called on donor states to help train security forces inside Iraq. Currently, donor states involved in training operate outside the country.
Participants endorsed a proposal by the Iraqi interim government to establish a donor coordination mechanism under Iraqi leadership with the support of the UN, the conference statement said. The operation will be based in Baghdad with links to the donor community in Amman, Jordan and elsewhere, the statement said. Donors pledged to further expedite the disbursement of aid pledged at the 2003 Madrid conference, but not delivered. The Iraqi government will present more specifics on the mechanism and present a list of priority aid needs at the 18-19 July donors meeting in Amman, Jordan, the statement noted.
Participants also stressed further support for Iraqi investigative, judicial, and penal bodies, and pledged to continue to support the provision of basic services to Iraq. Participants welcomed the role of the UN in supporting the drafting of a permanent constitution, and "agreed to coordinate their contributions to the political and constitutional process with the UN."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Brussels on 22 June. Kharrazi said during the event that he held individual meetings with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and EU High Representative Javier Solana, as well as other officials, IRNA reported. He said the topics of discussion included regional developments, the Iranian presidential election, and the Iranian nuclear program.
In his 22 June comments to the conference, Kharrazi said the participation of all Iraqi communities in the country's political structure and in framing its constitution is essential for its unity and stability. He added that priority should be given to security. Kharrazi said the promotion of tourism at Iraqi holy sites could generate $500 million annually. He also mentioned that plans are under way for oil swaps of up to 400,000 barrels per day, and added other projects dealing with oil, gas, banking, and finance are being considered.
"The Americans, after being tied up in Iraq and after the differences with Europe, understood that they cannot proceed in this way," Kharrazi on 23 June, IRNA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo, Bill Samii)