On the one hand, sources representing the conservative ruling coalition deny that Rafsanjani’s fitness to serve as president has been rejected. “His fitness was simply not confirmed,” these sources claim. Other sources, like the daily Keyhan, the most reliable reflection of Khamenei’s views, have suggested that Rafsanjani in fact owes the Guardian Council a debt of gratitude. Reformists and opponents of the regime, Keyhan claims, were planning to use Rafsanjani against the regime, and the rejection of his candidacy saved him from this fate of becoming a puppet of the opposition, and of the U.S. and Israel. (By this logic, the man who is responsible for deciding what is “expedient” for the regime is somehow incapable of deciding what is expedient for himself.)
And lest there be any doubt about Khamenei’s real source of power, consider his first major appearance after the Guardian Council announced its list of approved candidates: He asked the Iranian people to vote for those who will stand up to the enemy, and said that those who were not allowed to run have nothing but themselves to blame—all while surrounded by [Revolutionary Guard (IRGC)] commanders and other military officials. A couple of days later, Iran’s police chief—another IRGC commander—announced that 300,000 policemen will be on hand on election day to forcefully abort any attempted demonstrations.
Milani sees the upcoming election as little but the regime’s continuing quest to consolidate power:
Unless there is a deus ex machina, Khamenei is unlikely to get the political “epic”—massive voter turnout—he repeatedly says the regime needs and wants. Instead, Iran is more likely to take yet another step toward becoming a Praetorian despotism dominated in every domain—politics, construction, oil, media, even soccer—by the IRGC.
Gareth Smyth goes over the campaign rhetoric thus far:
[N]either [the perceived frontrunner Saeed] Jalili nor any other candidate has so far offered much in the election other than banalities – despite Iran’s mounting problems, which now centre on the reduction of oil exports from 2.2m barrels a day to 1.1m in the past year due to tightening western sanctions. … In the face of 13% unemployment and 32% inflation, candidates have been slow to advance specific ideas for improving economic growth the IMF projects at -1.3% for 2013, or to explain how they might finance productive investment with lower oil sales cutting government revenue in the financial year ending in March from a budgeted $117bn (£77bn) to $77bn.
But a silver lining in this week’s news: the US relaxed the Iranian sanctions on laptops and mobile phones in an effort to help Iranians use technology to overcome the regime’s propaganda.
(Photo: Iranian supporters hold posters featuring Hassan Rowhani, moderate Iranian presidential candidate and former top nuclear negotiator, during one of his electoral campaign rallies in northern Tehran on May 30, 2013. Rowhani, the only cleric in the race, says his experience in leading talks with the so-called P5+1 group – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain plus Germany – could help resolve the nuclear standoff. By Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)