The Guardian Council on 21 May, 2013, disqualified 678 of the 686 registered candidates for the presidency. Only eight of the closest individuals to Khamenei were approved. Of those disqualified, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were the most important. The disqualification of 98.8% of the candidates is an irregular act in the “democracy” led by the Velayat-e Faqih (the average approval percentage in the past nine presidency elections is 1.5%)
The disqualification of Esfandiar Rahim Mashai was foreseeable. What was unexpected was the disqualification of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the next man after Khomeini (during Khomeini’s time), was:
– nine years as Parliament Speaker
– Commander in Chief during the war
– The main factor behind placing Khamenei as Khomeini’s surrogate (after Khomeini’s death in 1989)
– eight years as president
– 24 years as President of the State Exigency Council
– Continual member of the Guardian Council and head of the council for a time
– The leaders of the three branches of government and members of the Guardian Council are members of the State Expediency Council that is led by Rafsanjani.
– The new term of Rafsanjani’s presidency over the Council, which was assigned by Khamenei, began in March 2013.
It seems very strange that the Guardian Council disqualify an individual who is the president of the Council which it (the Guardian Council) is a member of and was approved by Khamenei two months ago. Therefore, how can one resolve this contradiction that this individual no longer has the competence to become president. A president that is a member of this Council.
[It’s like saying that an individual has the competence to become speaker of parliament but lacks the competence of becoming a member of the parliament]
Assessment of Rafsanjani’s Competence in the Guardian Council
The Guardian Council has a five day legal deadline to assess the competence of all candidates, which can be extended for another five days. This assessment began on 12 May and at the end of 21 May the results were announced. During this period, the main issue of the Council was the competence of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. During the first four days of the assessment Rafsanjani’s competence was approved with by a majority vote (said to be seven to five). However, due to the insistence of those who disagreed with the approval, it was decided that the vote be reassessed, or in other words Khamenei’s last opinion taken into consideration. In the second assessment he was disqualified. The pretext used was his great age. They said that (contrary to the President of the Exigency Council) the president has executive responsibilities and duties which at his age are too onerous.1
On behalf of Khamenei, Mullah Sadeq Larijani, head of the regime’s judiciary, along with Mullah Hassan Rohani met with Rafsanjani and told him that they don’t want him to become a candidate and recommended that he stand down. However, Rafsanjani did not agree and said that the people had asked him to stand as a a candidate to resolve the critical situation . He averred that he would not betray the people by standing down. Therefore the disqualification was inevitably announced.
Why did Khamenei disqualify Rafsanjani?
Khamenei, facing tough crises that relate to his downfall, and in these circumstances where the Presidential election is the focal point of all other crises, is faced with a multi-variable equation:
1. Khamenei’s main problem in this election is Rafsanjani’s candidacy and Ahmadinejad’s attempt for Rahim Mashai’s candidacy.
2. Khamenei’s policy: Khamenei sees the “retraction policy” (absolutely not allowing any change in the course of the mainstream domestic and foreign policies of the current government by other internal political factions) as his only solution to continue the survival of his establishment, and sees that any expansion (allowing the participation of rival political factions) will lead to his downfall.
3. Uprising = Redline: Khamenei seriously fears another uprising and his assessment is that if an uprising begins it will be completely different from that of 2009 and will lead to his overthrow. To this end, his redline in resolving the election equation is prevention of an uprising.
All of Khamenei’s efforts were for Rafsanjani to not become a candidate and with the heaviest offensive against Rafsanjani prior to the elections tried to scare Rafsanjani of revelations against him so that he would not stand as a candidate yet in the final hours of 11 May 2013, he registered for candidacy.
Following Rafsanjani’s candidacy many possibilities were assessed by Khamenei and his think tank. All assessments come down to the following three possibilities:
Hashemi will not be elected. He will be approved yet Khamenei’s man will come out of the ballot box (similar to 2005)
This experience failed in 2009. When the Mousavi-Karroubi faction announced that the elections were rigged, the uprising began. The chances of a repetition are very high, since the Rafsanjani faction will definitely announce any election rigging that will lead to an uprising, which is Khamenei’s redline.
Hashemi will become president. Hashemi will be approved and accepted as president
Crossing the retraction policy = drinking a chalice of poison
Khamenei sees setting aside the retraction policy as at least losing his supreme rule. His assessment is that this way his establishment will be overthrown sooner.
Hashemi will be disqualified
Khamenei will pay the price and sideline Rafsanjani, disrupting the balance between this antagonist but inseparable pair. This will further deepen the internal rift. As a result the election will be boycotted by even the establishment’s forces, thus ruining the election show.
Based on this assessment, Khamenei came to the conclusion that side-lining Rafsanjani is the most prudent option. and that it is better to pay the entire price at once than to have to pay every day. By sticking to the retraction policy and the redline of uprisings beginning, the only solution is possibly the elimination of Rafsanjani.
1 This is while there is no law regarding an age limitation for the presidential candidacy, and the new presidential election law that was passed by the Majlis a few months ago that limited the presidency age to 75, was called by the Guardian Council as incompatible with the Constitution and so such a limitation was deleted from the law. (At that time the Guardian Council never imagined that Rafsanjani would become a candidate).