Omid Memarian

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Divisions Among Hardliner Clerics are Esclating

Upcoming Assembley of Experts Election in Iran has become very vital for the political groups. At the time reformist groups have a weak influence on this event, franctions among conservative clerics who follow different political agendas have become deeper than ever. Mostly between Ayatollah Mesbah Yadi who is well known as President Ahmadinejad's mentor and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani who is the former presidetnt of Iran:

With elections for the Assembly of Experts [Majlis Khobregan, which oversees the activities of the Supreme Leader] looming, divisions between traditional conservatives and the radicals have escalated. Organizations affiliated with ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, one of Ahmadinejad’s fiercest supporters, have begun campaigning, even though, according to one of Mesbah’s supporters, “The ayatollah said that he would not provide a list.” “However,” he added, “grassroots networks have formed and are active.”

The political editor of “Parto” magazine, which regularly covers Mesbah’s sermons and speeches, continued, “These grassroots organizations consist of university and seminary students. They pick the better qualified candidates from various lists and publish the lists as their own.” So far, some members of the Imam Khomeini Educational Center, run by Mesbah, together with a number of his students have announced their candidacy.

Interestingly, the lists affiliated with ayatollah Mesbah have omitted the names of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hassan Rohani [former head of National Security Council]. This goes to show the extent of divisions within various right-wing groups.

Seyed Reza Akrami, a member of the Jame Rohaniyate Mobarez [Association of Militant Clergy], told Aftab, “The exclusion of individuals such as Hashemi Rafsanjani by Mesbah’s supporters is against the Sharia, the law, ethical principles, and justice. Instead of campaigning against others, Mesbah’s supporters must say whom they support.”

The Iranian Student News Agency [ISNA] attempted to find the source of the “grassroots” organizations that support Mesbah. In an interview with ISNA, one of Ahmadinejad’s close aids, Ravanbakhsh, was asked, “Are these grassroots organizations the same organizations that campaigned for Ahmadinejad?” He responded, “The organizations that formed during the presidential elections were later disbanded. The model, however, was adopted by these newly formed grassroots organizations. People who come to the fore on their own.”

Political activists remember well how “grassroots organizations” suddenly emerged in the final months of the ninth presidential elections and completely changed the outcome. The same movement, this time under Mesbah’s leadership, is attempting to put an end to the power struggle within the Islamic Republic by taking over the Assembly of Experts.

Mesbah, who is considered to be Ahmadinejad’s spiritual godfather, has succeeded in placing many of his supporters in various official positions. One such person is Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh, who is now in charge of administrating the elections in the Ministry of the Interior. Furthermore, many of Mesbah’s supporters are mobilizing the Basiji forces (the young paramilitary forces operating under the leadership of the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards) for both participating in and monitoring the elections. This has added a great deal of concern about the fairness of the upcoming election.

Regarding the involvement of military and paramilitary forces in the elections, Roshan, political deputy of Tehran’s provincial government says, “In the past military forces did not directly influence elections. But now that a number of military officers have run for office in recent elections, politicians and activists have raised their concerns. These recent elections, however, were among the healthiest elections, and there wasn’t even a single petition filed against the military’s involvement in elections.”


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