Khomeini’s most prominent daughter heads a party that advocates for women’s rights and increased political participation. The following is a translation of her letter.
The Guardian Council has approved eight out of 686 candidates to run in Iran’s June 14 presidential election. The unelected body of 12 clerics and scholars rejected two individuals who might have been key contenders ― former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. The approved group includes four hardliners who are close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The following are profiles of the eight candidates.
Born in 1954, he is the current Secretary of the Expediency Council, the powerful body charged with resolving disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council. Rezaei is also a former chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. He unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 1999, and for the presidency in 2005 and 2009. He finished third in 2009 with 1.7 percent of the vote, far behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.
The Guardian Council has blocked two prominent figures from running in the June 14 presidential election. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-term former president, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, former chief of staff to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were both left off the list of eight approved candidates. Rafsanjani questioned whether Iran’s leaders know what they are doing in comments to his campaign staff on May 22. “I don’t think the country could have been run worse, even if it had been planned in advance,” he said according to opposition websites. Rafsanjani reportedly does not have plans to challenge the Guardian Council’s decision.
But Mashaei and his supporters, including President Ahmadinejad, have vowed to contest the Guardian Council's ruling. “I consider my disqualification as unjust, and I will follow up with the supreme leader,” Mashaei said on May 21. The following are excerpted reactions by the barred candidates, their supporters and other Iranian leaders.
The Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars offers the latest news on the 2013 Iranian presidential election, based on a selection of Iranian news sources. The Iran Election Update is a daily summary of up-to-date information with links to news in both English and Farsi.
- Alef News reports that although presidential candidate Saeed Jalili made a campaign visit to Qom and met with influential high-ranking clerics, he did not in fact meet with the senior cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, whose endorsement would be a major campaign prize. Alef cites the reasons ranging from the Perseverance Front (Yadzi’s political group) denying Jalili’s request for a meeting to Ayatollah Yazdi not even being in Qom yesterday and Jalili not necessarily wanting to meet with Ayatollah Yazdi because Yazdi had not endorsed him when he announced his candidacy.
- Raja News reports and lists the 51 Persian news websites that are either backing or supportive of presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.
- Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf will officially start his presidential campaign tomorrow in Khorramshahr. Photos posted by ILNA illustrate its symbolic nature as tomorrow marks the 11th anniversary of the liberation of the city as it was heavily ravaged by Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq War.
- In a speech in front of over 2,000 in the city of Bushehr, presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said, “I will form a social and public government… with the spirit of farmers, artists, workers, intellectuals, and different ethnic groups.”
- When asked about if any of the 2+1 Coalition candidates will withdraw, coalition member Ali Akbar Velayati said “all three coalition candidates will work alongside each other until the end and then a decision will be made.” He also promised, "(If elected) One of my administration’s emergency actions will be to contain inflation in 100 days.”
- Disqualified but hopeful presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei said, “If I am confirmed I will win the presidency by a unanimous vote.”
- Reformist presidential candidate Mohammed Aref said he hopes to be one of the final two or three candidates in the election. Aref also stated that former President Mohammed Khatami will soon declare his position on the remaining candidates. He continued, “I am not in the position to comment about Mr. Rafsanjani’s disqualification, but I am sorry that it happened.” Aref left open the possibility to join forces with candidate Hassan Rouhani by saying, “I am interested in a consensus (with him).” Aref predicted if there is a reformist victory in the elections, “we might change our tactics and methods but overall our foreign policy will not change.”
- Fars News posted photos of presidential candidates Mohammed Reza Aref, Ali Akbar Velayati, and former candidate Mohammad Hassan Abutorabi Fard as they participate in the Conference on Islamic Awakening, Future Horizons, and the Election.
- Tabnak News posted photos of presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei spending his first official day on the campaign trail in the southern Sistan-Baluchestan province meeting with citizens and tribal chiefs in the cities of Chabahar, Nikshahr, Iranshahr, Khash, and Zabol.
- English-language news PressTV reports that disqualified presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani says “the country needs unity and calm in order to pass through the current difficult times.” PressTV also notes that presidential candidate Saeed Jalili said, “an Islamic model must be used in various fields such as economy and culture, adding that improving public welfare is the ultimate goal of Islam.”
- Sayed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini, wrote a letter to former president Rafsanjani and said he could not believe the news that Rafsanjani was disqualified.
By Robin Wright and Garrett Nada
Among the 680-plus candidates who registered to run for president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stands alone as the most experienced and savviest politico — by far. He has almost done it all.
He was speaker of parliament for nine terms in the 1980s. He was president for two terms from 1989 to 1997. He was chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a panel of more than 80 clerics and scholars who oversee the supreme leader, from 2007 to 2011. And he is currently chief of the Expediency Council, the ultimate arbiter of disputes between parliament and the 12-man Guardian Council.
But more than titles, Rafsanjani was long the behind-the-scene powerbroker in the world’s only modern theocracy. He orchestrated the rewriting of the constitution in 1989 to create an executive president — and then got himself elected to the more powerful post. The same year, he mobilized the inner circle after the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini to support Ali Khamenei as the new supreme leader. The twin steps are still the biggest political overhaul since the 1979 revolution.
For his wiliness, Rafsanjani was nicknamed “the shark,” which is also a play on his smooth beardless chin, a physical attribute inherited from Mongolian ancestors. He was also — somewhat cynically — nicknamed “Akbar Shah,” a dig at the king-like power he once wielded. His Cheshire cat grin was a staple of Iranian politics in the 1980s and 1990s — and a barometer of who and what was in favor.
Yet Rafsanjani has struggled since 2000 to retain his leverage. Subsequent comeback efforts have failed.
His famous family has also increasingly been targeted by both the regime and his political rivals. Two of his children were charged with acting against the regime after the disputed 2009 presidential election. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi ― a former member of parliament and vice president of Iran’s Olympic committee ― spent six months in prison for “spreading propaganda.” She was released in March 2013. His son, Mehdi Hashemi was jailed for more than two months in late 2012 for inciting unrest and still faces formal prosecution.
What is Rafsanjani’s relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei?
The Islamists Are Coming
The Islamists Are Coming, edited by Robin Wright, surveys the rise of Islamist groups in the wake of the Arab Spring. Often lumped together, the more than 50 Islamist parties with millions of followers now constitute a whole new spectrum—separate from either militants or secular parties. They will shape the new order in the world’s most volatile region more than any other political bloc. Yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies. Sometimes they are even rivals.
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