January 28, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6282

Iranian Pragmatic Camp Leaders Protest Against Regime's Mass Disqualification Of Thousands Of Pragmatic Camp Candidates For February 2016 Majlis Elections

January 28, 2016
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 6282

After it emerged in mid-January 2016 that thousands of pragmatic camp candidates for the Majlis elections set for February 26, 2016 had been disqualified, the pragmatic camp's leaders, Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Hassan Rohani, were publicly vocal in their criticism. They called on the regime, the Guardian Council whose task it is to approve candidates for elections, and, particularly, on ideological camp head Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, to allow candidates from different camps to run. They also urged the regime to accept the criticism and decisions of the people, in everyday matters and in elections for state institutions, or else risk harming the regime. Why should there even be elections, they asked, if only candidates from one camp could participate?

In response, the editor of the Kayhan daily, Hossein Shariatmadari, who is an associate of Supreme Leader Khamenei and a prominent figure in the ideological camp, wrote an editorial for the paper attacking President Rohani.

Commenting on January 26 on the mass disqualification of candidates, among them also reformists, who had been largely prevented from running for office in the past several elections and who have almost no political representation, reformist professor Sadegh Zibakalam said that it was the candidates who support Rohani's pragmatic government, and also those who had been active in Rohani's 2013 election campaign, who had been disqualified en masse. He proposed a strategy to get reformists into the Majlis: The supreme council of the reformist party should appeal to lesser known candidates who have been approved to run, asking them to represent the reformists and promising in return that the council will ask the public to vote for them. Even if two-thirds of these candidates ultimately join the pro-government pragmatics in the Majlis, he said, the remaining third will still represent the reformists. He also warned that if the reformists boycott the elections and do not turn out to vote, the hardliners will take control of the Majlis.[1]

The same day, the Kayhan daily, which is affiliated with Khamenei, responded to both the reformists and the pragmatic camp in the matter of the disqualification of their candidates. It said that the candidates disqualified by the Guardian Council were those who had "collaborated with the enemy," who were opposed to Islam and in favor of Israel, who were acting to destroy the regime of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, or who had asked that the U.S. to level paralyzing sanctions against Iran, but that ordinary candidates had not been disqualified. It added that the reformists needed to define for themselves who they are and what their limits are, so that "traitors" and "the politically lawless" are not identified with them.

This report will summarize the main points of the criticism by pragmatic camp leaders Rafsanjani and Rohani, and of Shariatmadari's editorial:

Rafsanjani: Let The People Vote For Candidates From Diverse Camps With Diverse Views

After expressing regret, on January 18, 2016, over the disqualification of some 60% of the moderate candidates for the Majlis elections,[2] Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani stated, twice, in a January 20 speech that the people must be allowed to vote for candidates from diverse camps and with diverse views, and that there must be an open and safe public atmosphere with no ideological censorship:

"Every stage of the crucial elections of February 2016 must be carried out legally and fairly, so that the people can elect the candidates they desire from a wide variety of dedicated [candidates] coming from the entire spectrum of personal tastes and ideological inclinations in the family of the revolution and the Islamic regime. Maybe in this way we will see elections that are greeted with maximal enthusiasm and participation by the public.

"For the regime to maintain continuity, it is essential that it be responsive to the will of the people, and that it persuade it intellectually. Today, due to the proliferation of social networks and the good access to diverse news from around the world, the public becomes more informed and educated every day, and is always exchanging views with others. For this reason, pretexts, censorship of information and news, and distortion of reality do not solve anything.

"The public must be allowed to express its opinion, to criticize, to judge, and to ask constructive questions in an atmosphere that is nonthreatening and proper. Failing to address the will of the people could result in long-term ills. This [is also] a contradiction of Islam.

"The people should have an opportunity to freely elect the candidates it desires, [and to choose from] a variety of personal tastes and inclinations. According to God's dictate, no one besides the Imam Ali was worthy of ruling. But the Prophet Muhammad said to him: 'If the people desire, rule them, but if they do not desire it, transfer the [right to choose] to them.'

"If the upcoming elections [set for February 26] for the Assembly of Experts and the Majlis are held in a legal manner, it will have positive impact, because, thanks to the political heroism of the Iranian nation in the June 2013 [presidential election], the people's votes led to the rise of a moderate government that assembled a professional technical team that sat at the [nuclear] negotiating table with the global superpowers and proved to the world Iran's legitimacy."[3]

Rohani: Why Hold Elections If A Party Representing 10 Million People Cannot Run?

President Hassan Rohani also called on the regime not to ignore the right of millions of Iranians to elect their representatives as they see fit, and not only in accordance with the criterion set forth by Supreme Leader Khamenei on January 9, 2016 - that is, religious observance.

Speaking at a January 21, 2016 governors' conference, Rohani said: "With regard to domestic policy, the current government's greatest task is to hold legal elections for the Majlis and the Assembly of Experts on February 26. Everyone should make an effort to carry out Leader [Khamenei's] view concerning the entire nation's full and enthusiastic participation [in the voting].

"The Majlis is known as the house of the nation - not as a house that belongs solely to one party. The government does not side with particular parties or candidates. Because of the situation in the world, we must send the very best to the Majlis. Just as the leader [Khamenei] said [regarding worthy candidates], we must operate according to the law and not based merely on personal taste...

"These days, we are examining whether the candidates are worthy. Of course, all candidates should be committed to the religion, the constitution, and the rule of the jurisprudent. But should their commitment be [limited to] these matters alone?! What about the environment, industry, development, the elimination of the economic recession, unemployment, and financial prosperity?!

"When the Imam Ali wanted to choose a governor, did he look only at whether [a candidate] does his evening prayers, participates in public prayers, pays his tithes? Or did he also look at his capabilities, professionalism, management skills, and understanding of society?

"The constitution grants Jews, Zoroastrians, Assyrians, and Armenians the right to representatives in the Majlis, even though they are a tiny segment of society. This is a very good thing. Should we now ignore [an entire] national party whose supporters number some 10 million?! Is this [an appropriate] interpretation and implementation of the constitution?!

"If a certain party can be represented in the elections and another party cannot, then why are we even holding elections?!"[4]

Shariatmadari: Rohani Should Sit On The Defendant's Bench And Give The People Answers

In his January 23, 2016 editorial in Kayhan, editor Hossein Shariatmadari responded to statements by President Rohani and justified the decision of the Guardian Council, the body tasked with approving candidates for elections, to reject the pragmatic camp candidates. He wrote that because Rohani is not properly carrying out his job as president, and has proved incapable of solving the people's economic woes, he is passing the blame for this to the Majlis. Rohani's claim that the regime is ignoring millions of moderate voices who are not being politically represented is unfounded, he stated, and went on to say that Muslims are not a religious minority in Iran and therefore should not be guaranteed any particular party representation.

Following are excerpts from his article:

"'In global revolutions, and throughout history, executive branches [i.e. governments] have always interpreted the law in their own favor, thus suppressing revolutions. Therefore, the constitution of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] defines the [role of the] the Guardian Council as confronting dictatorship. In order to prevent a dictatorship, the constitution authorized the Guardian Council to interpret the law'... This is part of a [November 30,] 1980 speech by President Rohani.

"Later on in that speech, Rohani talks about how to identify people and parties who are not following the line of the leader [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and of the revolution, and says: 'The fundamental criteria are the words of the Imam and leader [Khomeini]. The people should read interviews and speeches and compare the positions of officials to those of the Imam and the leader [Khomeini], in order to see who follows the line of the revolution and who works against the opinion of the Imam - which is in effect the opinion of the [Iranian] nation.'

"On Thursday morning, President Rohani attended a governors' conference in Iran, and talked about the coming Majlis elections. Considering his position as head of the executive branch, and being a religious and legal scholar, his statements were unexpected and bizarre... First, Rohani spoke of the election and said: 'Of course, whoever wants to be a Majlis member should be committed to the religion, the constitution, and the rule of the jurisprudent. But what about the environment, industry, development, the elimination of the economic recession, unemployment, and financial prosperity?!'

"On this matter we must ask Rohani [who is head of the executive branch]: Since when are Majlis members responsible for resolving issues such as the environment, industry, development, unemployment, and economic recession? [When] were these issues removed from the list of the tasks [assigned by law] to the government?... How are Majlis members connected to the abovementioned problems? The environmental authority, the ministries of industry, mines, economic affairs, and finance, the ministries of labor and social affairs, and so on - all these are apparatuses that are subordinate to the government. So why couldn't you [i.e. Rohani, in your capacity as head of the government] solve the problems? Therefore, why is these bodies' inability to solve these problems, which unfortunately attests to the impotence of the [Rohani] government, being blamed on [Majlis] members?...

"According to minutes of the Majlis meetings, the Majlis insisted on solving the aforementioned problems, but the government ignored this. What bill or other proposal submitted [by the government] to the Majlis to solve these problems has been rejected by the Majlis? ...

"This is puzzling, because in the face of the despair - i.e. the weakness and impotence of the government in solving these problems - it is the president himself who should sit on the defendant's bench and give the people answers... Instead, it is he who is in the accuser's seat demanding answers.

"Rohani said, 'It is the people that truly determines who is worthy [of candidacy]'... [But] true respect for the nation is manifested in solving its problems - the cost [of living], the economic recession, unemployment, the lack of respect for the Iranian passport [in the world], fighting discrimination, and so on - not in mere political respect.

"These statements by the president are considered humiliation of the people... [because] it is the people who should determine who is a thief and who is faithful...

"In part of his statements, the president was critical of the decision that some candidates were unworthy, and said: 'We must operate according to the law and not based merely on personal taste.' About this, it must be said that Rohani provides no examples to back up this claim...           

"Rohani estimates reformists and moderates in the country at around seven to 10 million; each of the minorities - Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians - have one Majlis member. Then why is a population of seven to 10 million being denied entry into the Majlis, [he asks]. On this, it must be said that Rohani has no reliable source for this statement.

"Furthermore, we must ask Rohani whether he defines the population to which he referred [i.e. the seven to 10 million] as outside the Islamic faith [and therefore entitled to] Majlis representation like other religious minorities such as Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians?!"[5]




[1] ILNA (Iran), January 26, 2016.

[2] Entekhab (Iran), January 19, 2016.

[3] Mehr (Iran), January 20, 2016.

[4] ISNA (Iran), January 23, 2016.

[5] Kayhan (Iran), January 23, 2016.

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