The upcoming presidential elections in Iran are getting lots of media attention. Add in several terrorist attacks inside Iran, the current US-Israel deadlock and attempts by Barack Obama's administration to take a more productive track with Iran, and the stakes are probably higher than they have been for an Iranian elections any time in the last twenty years.
The Economist takes a look at the campaign and expects the return of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad due in part to his support from outside Tehran. Much has been made of his bribes of potatoes for the poor, but I doubt the poor Iranian electorate will forgive a crumbling economy for a few days of food. Ahmadinejad can make better use of the terrorist attacks, defiance in the face of international pressure and his own conservative politics to rally his base. However, a high turnout, particularly from Tehran, could unseat Ahmadinejad. As could a strong showing from Iran's ethnic and religious minorities.
Everyone in Iranian politics is trying to spin current events to their advantage. All candidates have been working hard to convince the different powerful factions that they will not destabilise the Islamic Republic or disrupt the current arrangement.
Mehdi Karrubi has made it clear that despite being one of the left-wing revolutionaries, he's no threat to established power bases in the way that Khatami's 1997 campaign threatened to be.
Mohsen Rezai, making least use of technology, and with the lowest chance of winning the election, has been vocal about cleaning up corruption, criticising reconciliation with the West but making a public stand on discrimination against minorities. (Khatami did himself no favour being caught making jokes about Azeris.)
Photos of some of the children Mr. Mostafaie has defended. (Newsha Tavakolian/Polaris for The Wall Street Journal).
The Wall Street Journal's daily collection of news photos has included a photo essay about human rights, health and education in Iran, along with an article on child executions and how different presidential candidates have reacted and how those responses have been used by supporters of rival candidates.
Mousavi, who has been criticised for being too ordinary and who has Khatami's backing has been using the internet wisely and getting backing from many bloggers. Much has been made of Facebook getting blocked for a few days and SMS text messaging being used as a campaign tool.
Probably for the first time since the founding of the Islamic Republic, presidential candidates' wives have been under scrutiny. Zahra Rahnavard, Mousavi's wife, has been praised as has the couple's hand holding in public. Pedestrian looks at touching and it's place in Iranian politics and the upcoming election. And Mousavi is apparently a secret Mossadeghist.
The Tehran Bureau blog has a great series five posts looking at different aspects of the upcoming election:
- Part I: The Political Landscape in Iran -- described the political and economical landscape in Iran.
- Part II: Political Groups in the Iranian Election -- provided a brief history of the important political groups in Iran after the revolution, their place on the political spectrum and their present position on the issues.
- Part III: The Candidates in the Iranian Election -- profiled the four candidates, their history and chances.
- Part IV: The Campaign Trail -- described the latest developments.
- Part V: the Hard-Liners in a Panic -- as the campaign heats up, different groups start attacking each other.
As the campaigns come to a head, different parts of the Iranian state and it's the support bases of the different candidates have clashes. The Iran Expediency Council issued a statement criticising Ahmadinejad's comments about the country's nuclear negotiations with the West.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp have been warned not to get involved in the election and the Basij (who have previously campaigned for Ahmadinejad) have also been warned.
A mosque in Zahedan was bombed and three men have already been hanged for the attack. One of Ahmadinejad's campaign headquarters has been attacked, allegedly by Jundallah (a Sunni insurgent group). The attacks have variously been blamed on Israel, the United States, Pakistani intelligence services, Jundallah and Iran's own security forces trying to rally support for hardline conservatives.
Tony Karon talks about how Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to derail Barack Obama's plans to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East. He also looks at what Netanyahu's faction in Israeli politics is willing to do to provoke Iran and why. The bottom line: Bibi and his friends needMahmoud and Mahmoud and his friends need Bibi and his friends.