March 9, 2008


Iranian factions gear up for crucial parliamentary vote: Ahmadinejad tries to mend ties with the influential clergy, as reformists fume over barring of candidates (Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi, March 9, 2008, LA Times)

Within Iran's restrictive political environment, there is still some lively debate and fierce competition among rival groups. Compared with other Middle Eastern countries, Iran's competitive political culture resembles representative democracy, with campaign tours around the countryside, spirited attacks among opposing camps and rhetoric tailored to calibrate public expectations.

"Now we have to prepare ourselves to be a strong minority," said Rasoul Montajebnia, of the reformist National Trust grouping, according to Iranian news agencies. "Expecting to occupy the majority of seats is not a realistic vision."

The stifled reformists have by and large been reduced to promoting well-known figures such as former President Mohammad Khatami rather than crafting a platform and calling for increased social liberty to appeal to middle-class voters.

But though the Guardian Council has blocked many of the more liberal opposition candidates, Ahmadinejad's parliamentary loyalists fear a challenge by an alliance of so-called pragmatic conservatives that includes Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf and former nuclear negotiators Hassan Rowhani and Ali Larijani. They claim to be the Islamic Republic's true standard-bearers and have strong ties to the clerical establishment to back them up.

Currently Ahmadinejad is able to muster parliamentary majorities on most of his proposals and appointments. For example, his highly religious choice for minister of education, Ali-Reza Ali-Ahmadi, was approved Feb. 19 by a vote of 133 to 92, with 29 abstentions.

But signs abound that some members of the clerical establishment have tired of Ahmadinejad's clique, which includes other former members of the elite Revolutionary Guard who came of age during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war. The president himself will be up for reelection in 2009.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2008 8:38 AM
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