Whereas these remarks may have struck a chord with the Iranian public, they provoked a stern rebuke from Supreme Leader Khamenei at last Friday’s post-election prayer service. Khamenei, breaking a long-standing tradition of not mentioning specific people during his address, defended Rafsanjani’s reputation by describing him as “one of the most significant and principal people of the movement in the pre-revolution era…[who] went to the verges of martyrdom several times after the revolution,” also pointing out his bona fides as “a companion of Imam Khomeini, and after the demise of Imam Khomeini was perpetually a comrade of the leader.”
Rafsanjani is currently the speaker of the Assembly of Experts, an 86 member elected council of clerics responsible for appointing and, if need be, dismissing and replacing the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. In September 2007, Rafsanjani was elected speaker after decisively defeating a candidate supported by Ahmadinejad. He is also currently the leader of the Expediency Council which is “responsible for breaking stalemates between the Majlis and the Guardian Council, advising the Supreme Leader, and proposing policy guidelines for the Islamic Republic.” As such, the Expediency Council limits the power wielded by the conservative Guardian Council, a body consisting of twelve jurists who evaluate the compatibility of the Majlis [Parliament]’s legislative decisions with Islamic law and the Iranian constitution. Moreover, in 2005, Khamenei strengthened the role of the Expediency Council by granting it supervisory powers over all branches of government, effectively affording the Expediency Council and its leader, Rafsanjani, oversight over the presidency.
As a result, Rafsanjani retains a tremendous amount of power within Iranian politics. His strong support, both outspoken and financial, for Mousavi should show clearly that Mousavi – who was the Iranian Prime Minister during the Iran-Iraq War – is not some scrappy reformist challenger to the upper tiers of the Islamic Republic. He is as establishment as anyone else, if not more so.
But that’s not all. Asia Times correspondant M.K. Bhadrakumar explains,
For those who do not know Iran better, suffice to say that the Rafsanjani family clan owns vast financial empires in Iran, including foreign trade, vast landholdings and the largest network of private universities in Iran. Known as Azad there are 300 branches spread over the country, they are not only money-spinners but could also press into Mousavi’s election campaign an active cadre of student activists numbering some 3 million.
The Azad campuses and auditoria provided the rallying point for Mousavi’s campaign in the provinces. The attempt was to see that the campaign reached the rural poor in their multitudes who formed the bulk of voters and constituted Ahmadinejad’s political base. Rafsanjani’s political style is to build up extensive networking in virtually all the top echelons of the power structure, especially bodies such as the Guardian Council, Expediency Council, the Qom clergy, Majlis, judiciary, bureaucracy, Tehran bazaar and even elements within the circles close to Khamenei. He called into play these pockets of influence.
The Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has already come out against the election results, once again showing that the dynamic of the Iranian government is not that of a monolithic dictatorship, but a complex network of power plays. Basically, what we’re seeing is all politics, and not a revolutionary uprising.
As allegations of fraud spread, Mousavi supporters in the United States seemed not to be able to get their stories straight. In co-ordinated mass emails, sent widely to promote protests across the country (and with all the “grassroots” pizzazz of those corporate-sponsored Republican Teabagging Parties in April), a number of unsubstantiated claims are noted as “Basic Statistics.”
Some claim that there were not enough ballots available to the voting public, while others suggest that there were too many ballots in an attempt to stuff ballot boxes with pro-Ahmadinejad votes. It is claimed that “Voting irregularities occurred throughout Iran and abroad. Polls closed early, votes were not counted and ballots were confusing.” Without providing any evidence of any of these accusations, the message reveals its own inaccuracy by deliberately spreading misinformation. Because turnout on election day was so high in Iran, polls actually remained open for up to four extra hours to allow as many people to cast ballots as possible. If Iranian authorities were prepared for a totalitarian takeover of the country after a faked election, why bother to keep polls open?
Also, the ballots weren’t confusing. They had no list of names or added legislative initiatives. They had one single, solitary question on them: Who is your pick for president? There is one empty box to note a number corresponding to the candidate of your choice and another box in which you are to write the candidate’s name. No hanging chads, no levers to pull, no political parties to consider. Just write the name of the guy you want to win. How is this confusing?
The suggestion that the ballots were counted too quickly to reflect a genuine result is in itself bizarre and unfounded. Al-Amin tells us, “There were a total of 45,713 ballot boxes that were set up in cities, towns and villages across Iran. With 39.2 million ballots cast, there were less than 860 ballots per box…Why would it take more than an hour or two to count 860 ballots per poll? After the count, the results were then reported electronically to the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran.”
The elections in Iran are organized and monitored. The ballots are counted by teachers and professionals including civil servants and retirees, much like here in the US. An eyewitness from Shiraz provides this account:
As an employee in City Hall, I was assigned to be a poll worker/watcher at the University of Shiraz on election day and here it was impossible for cheating to have taken place! There were close to 20 observers, from the Guardian Council, the Ministry of the Interior, and more than four-five representatives/observers from each candidate. Everybody was watching every single move, stamp, piece of paper, etc. from the checking of the Shenas-Nameh (personal indentification documentation) to the filling of the ballot boxes, to the counting of each ballot under everyone’s eyes, and then registering the results into the computer and sending them to the Interior Ministry…Also, we had extra ballots in Shiraz. It’s possible that in some of the smaller villages they ran out of ballots, but the voting hours were extended.
The opposition messages state that “The two main state news agencies in Iran declared the winner before polls closed and votes were counted.” Actually, as mentioned above, it was Mousavi who declared his own victory several hours before the polls closed. Paul Craig Roberts, who is himself a former US government official, suggests that Mousavi’s premature victory declaration is “classic CIA destabilization designed to discredit a contrary outcome. It forces an early declaration of the vote. The longer the time interval between the preemptive declaration of victory and the release of the vote tally, the longer Mousavi has to create the impression that the authorities are using the time to fix the vote. It is amazing that people don’t see through this trick.”
Circulating emails even contain this tidbit: “Two primary opponents of Ahmadinejad reject the notion that he won the election.” Talk about proof!