INU – Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s supreme leader, began the ‘engineering’ of the June presidential election months ago by disqualifying 678 candidates and confirming only 8 candidates of his own choosing as an important step in ‘engineering’ his desired results.
In this round of the election, the ‘engineering’ took place at the time the candidates were vetted by the Guardian Council. This is because Khamenei is now weaker than he was when he vetted candidates at the vote-counting stage, as he did in 2005.
By doing this, Khamenei is pursuing two goals. Firstly, he is looking to select as president one of the three candidates closest to him, Saeed Jalili, Ali Akbar Velayati and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Secondly, he wants to announce more than 50 percent of eligible voters participated in the election.
Khamenei’s difficulties in 2013 election engineering
Khamenei, whose power has been eroded following the 2009 uprising, is now facing several difficulties in the implement ion of his election engineering:
1)Khamenei wants a president that will continue his contraction policy which he started in 2005 by eliminating Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the so called reformists (Mostafa Moin, Mehdi Karroubi, and He considers that failure to achieve this could trigger the downfall of the regime.
2)He considers it vital that there is no repeat of the 2009 uprising, therefore election engineering similar to 2009 would not work.
3)As in 2005 and 2009, he must eliminate Rafsanjani and the so-called reformists who contradict his contraction policy.
4)After failure of the Velayat-e Faqih period, and contrary to 2005 and 2009, Khamenei’s faction and especially the clerics and revolutionary guards are torn apart and he is being challenged by different groups within his own faction.
Contrary to 2005 and 2009, in which the revolutionary guards’ command could easily have determined which candidate was favored by Khamenei, the situation in 2013 is entirely different.
For example, in the 2005 election engineering, Khamenei introduced his son Mojtaba as the head of Ghalibaf’s election campaign, and by doing so he deceived Rafsanjani and the reformists.
Then with only 4 days left until the election, Mojtaba left Ghalibaf campaign and became head of Ahmadinejad’s election campaign. After this, the revolutionary guards simply filled the ballot boxes in favor of Ahmadinejad.
But in 2013 election, the revolutionary guards’ situation is different. On 5 May, 2013, General Mohammad Ali Jafari participated in a conference in Tehran to personally explain this to 4,000 revolutionary guards commanders involved in the election engineering, but after hours of discussion he was not able to reach an agreement with them.
It is said that General Mohammad Ali Jafari, General Qassem Soleimani commander of the Qods force, and mullah Ali Saeedi, Khamenie’s representative in the IRGC, together with some IRGC commanders and part of the revolutionary guards forces, favor Ghalibaf, but other IRGC commanders and lower ranks in IRGC forces favor other candidates, especially Saeed Jalili.
There is also much disagreement among pro-Khamenei mullahs. The Society of Combatant Clergy headed by mullah Mahdavi Kani supports traditional right-wing conservatives.
Opposing them is mullah Mesbah Yazdi, leader of the security and military groups within Khamenei’s faction.
This faction was the main supporter of Khamenei in selecting Ahmadinejad as president.
In this election, mullah Mesbah Yazdi and his faction introduced Kamran Bagheri Lankarani as the fittest candidate for the presidency, while mullah Mahdavi Kani and the Society of Combatant Clergy as well as Society of Seminaries did not accept him and introduced mullah Hassan Abu-Torabi as their own candidate.
So far, the regime has gone through the following election engineering phases:
1) Progress Coalition of 2+1: In early February 2013, Khamenei formed a coalition of three conservative factions within his faction; Ali Akbar Velayati fr om traditional right-wing; Bagher Ghalibaf fr om a faction close to the revolutionary guards; and Gholamali Hadad Adel fr om the conservatives close to Persistence Front and the government. This coalition announced that it would introduce only one final candidate and that the other candidates would be in his government, and asked other conservatives to join the coalition.
2) Traditional right conservatives did not accept this coalition and introduced the broader coalition of a conservative faction with 5 candidates. This coalition consisted of two mullahs, Hassan Abu-Torabi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, on behalf of Society of Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminaries, and Manouchehr Motaki, Yayha Al-Eshaq and Mohammad Reza Bahonar on behalf of other traditional right-wing groups.
The Combatant Clergy and the Society of Seminaries introduced Hassan Abu-Torabi as a candidate, who all candidates accepted except Manouchehr Motaki. Motaki himself registered separately for candidacy.
3) Mullah Mesbah Yazdi and the Persistence Front chose Kamran Bagheri Lankarani as candidate. After Saeed Jalili registered for the presidential election, Mesbah Yazi refused to dismiss Bagheri Lankarani in
favor of Jalili and the Persistence Front was divided over Bagheri Lankarani and Saeed Jalili.
4) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forcefully backed the candidacy of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and sent several signals to Khamenei that if his candidate was rejected he would create fresh problems during the election.
5) Khamenei tried to force Rafsanjani and Mohamad Khatami not to stand in the presidential election by using his cronies to threaten them, but Rafsanjani registered at the last minute. Thus Khamenei was unsuccessful in unifying his faction around the 2+1 coalition and preventing Rafsanjani’s candidacy. The problem of Ahmadinejad who accompanied Rahim Mashaei in his registration was still being dealt with by Khamenei.
Election engineering via the Guardian Council
This time Khamenei decided to perform the 2013 election engineering via Guardian Council. The disqualification of Rahim Mashaei was expected by all regime groups and the question was what Ahmadinejad would do after Mashaei was disqualified.
But the disqualification of Rafsanjani, who propelled Khamenei to the position of supreme leader and was appointed in March 2013 by Khamenei as the head of Expediency Council, was unexpected.
In addition, the disqualification of Manouchehr Motaki, former foreign minister, Ali Falahian, former intelligence minister, mullah Hassan Abou-Torabi Fard, deputy speaker of the parliament and elected candidate of the Society of Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminaries, and Lankarani, whom Mesbah Yazdi described as fittest candidate, was also unexpected. But Khamenei had no choice. By doing so he:
1) Removed the threat of Rafsanjani as a president that would force him to drink the ‘poison.’
2) By disqualifying Lankarani, he prevented the rift in in Persistence Front and confrontation with Mesbah Yazdi and Mahdavi Kani, and forced Mesbah Yazadi to support Saeed Jalili.
3) By disqualifying mullah Hassan Abu-Torabi, the candidate of the Society of Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminaries, he forced these two societies to support the candidate of the 2+1 coalition or Saeed Jalili, (these two groups did introduce any other candidate after the disqualification of mullah Abu-Torabi).
4) By disqualifying Manouchehr Motaki, the followers of the Imam and Leader front, which consists of 14 traditional right wing groups, supported the candidacy of Ali Akbar Velayati.
The Candidacy of Saeed Jalili and the silence of Ahmadinejad
By approving the qualification of Saeed Jalili as a candidate, Khamenei met the minimum demands of Ahmadinejad and thwarted his problem making actions.
Jalili was one of the main members of Ahmadinejad’s faction in 2005 and Ahmadinejad insisted that he became his foreign minister.
In 2007, when a conflict between Ahmadinejad and Ali Larijani on nuclear issue arose, at the suggestion of Ahmadinejad, Saeed Jalili replaced Ali Larijani on the nuclear issue in the security council.
In recent years, the conservatives took a position against Ahmadinejad, but Saeed Jalili was one of the few conservatives who took no position against him.
In Jalili’s election campaign, Ahmadinejad’s Guidance Minister, together with some government supporters, participated. Jalili’s election slogan was the same as Ahmadinejad’s. It is said that a branch of IRGC supports Saeed Jalili and say he is more favored by Khamenei.
The latest state of election arrangements
Following the disqualification of Rafsanjani and Rahim Mashaei, 8 candidates remained on the scene.
The 1+2 coalition: In a meeting with mullah Mahdavi Kani, the three candidates, Gholamali Hadad Adel, Ali Akbar Velayati and Mohammad Bagher Gahlibaf announced that they would all remain as candidates for now, although they were supposed to introduce only one candidate.
The state of these 8 candidates are as following:
1) Hadad Adel: He is head of the conservative faction in the parliament. A faction of the Persistence Front supports Hadad Adel after Bagheri Lankarani was disqualified, but the majority of this band supports Saeed Jalili. Thus Hadad Adel has the least vote amongst the three candidates of 1+2 coalition.
2) Ali Akbar Velayati: He has the support of the Society of Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminaries. They prefer him over Saeed Jalili. The followers of Imam and the Leader (consisting of 14 traditional right wing groups) also support Velayati.
3) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf: It is said that General Mohammad Ali Jafari, head commander of the IRGC, and General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Qods force, support Ghalibaf. Also, some members of the Velayat followers’ faction in the parliament support him.
Because of the stand he took after 2009, Ghalibaf tried to earn the support of reformists and technocrats, but after Rafsanjani’s candidacy, Ghalibaf felt he had lost their support; so in order to earn more support in the IRGC and its bodies, he took a stand against Rafsanjani.
He then revealed he sent in the Basij forces in the students crackdown in University alley and his direct and active involvement in the repression of the 2009 uprising. This resulted in the loss of votes he could have earned after the disqualification of Rafsanjani.
It should be noted that the Persistence Front and Ahmadinejad’s government are in conflict with Ghalibaf and do not support him.
4) Saeed Jalili, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of the mullahs’ regime and the Chief Nuclear Negotiator, has registered as an independent candidate. He is supported by the Persistence Front after Bagheri Lankarani was disqualified. It is said that he has influence in the IRGC body. Ahmadinejad and his supporters would vote for Jalili.
5) Mohsen Rezaei has registered as an independent candidate. The Perseverance party supports him. This movement has the support of 30 members of the parliament. He also has some support among the IRGC but the two groups, the Society of Combatant Clergy and Society of Seminaries, and the Persistence Front, do not support him.
6) Mohammad Gharazi has registered as an independent candidate but since he has been away fr om the political scene his presence is not serious and no specific movement within Khamenei’s groups support him.
7) Mullah Hassan Rowhani: A faction of conservatives supports him.
8) Mohammad Reza Aref entered the election with the slogan of reform. He is close to Mohamad Khatami.
The policy of Rafsanjani and the reformists towards the election is not yet clear after Rafsanjani was disqualified.
Mohammad Shraiatmadari, who was disqualified, was a reformists’ candidate. There were some efforts to form a coalition between Mohammad Reza Aref and Hassan Rowhani so that Aref would withdraw in favor of Rowhani, but as long as the policy of reformists and Khatami towards the election on one side and Rafsanjani’s policy on the other side are not determined, this coalition will not form.
Khamenei’s continuing election engineering
Following election engineering via the Guardian Council and the disqualification of Rafsanjani, Khamenei is facing the serious problem of an election boycott even within the regime’s own groups and supporters. This is while he needs to announce a high turnout in the election. This is after a few months ago that mullah Ali Saeedi, Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC, announced that 65 percent of people would participate in the election!
Other stages of election engineering that are being designed and implemented include creating a propaganda atmosphere in which high participation in the election is advertised (with the concurrence of the municipal election), and then an astronomical rise in the number of election participants in the vote assembly and counting rooms.
Inside the election engineering groups, there is also the issue that if Hassan Rowhani and Mohammad Reza Aref form a coalition (with Rowhani being put forward as their candidate) and Rafsanjani and Khatami support them, then they would face the threat of Rowhani being elected.
In this case, similarly to the 2009 election, they have to prevent him fr om emerging victorious fr om the ballot box.
They argue that if that happened, a repeat of the 2009 uprising may occur, and that it is essential that is does not. The repressive organs are preparing and planning for this case using psychological and media warfare.