Thursday, January 13, 2005

Warning of Ultraconservative Mohsen Kouhkan to Rafsanjani

The Journal of Turkish Weekly: "Warning of Ultraconservatives to Rafsanjani
Mohsen Kouhkan, rightwing MP from Isfahan province who was among the chief opponents of President Mohammad Khatami’s choice for Transportation Minister had a stern warning for the next president of Iran.

During the Majlis session which led to Ahmad Saadeq-Bonab, the president’s nominee, being rejected, Kouhkan said: “The next president, whoever he is, should know this message being sent by the Majlis that cabinet members should be competent and acceptable to the parliament.”

However, some analysts interpret this statement by a leading hardliner in the legislature as a sign that the conservatives fear losing the June 2005 presidential election.

In fact, government spokesman Dr. Abdullah Ramezan-Zadeh said as much on Tuesday when he stated: “Some have lost hope about prevailing in the election and are resorting to desperate measures.”

It is notable that ultraconservatives and even many mainstream conservatives are dismayed about the all but certain probability of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani running for an unprecedented third term in office.

The rightwing knows that it lacks the lobbying and persuasion power to force Rafsanjani not to run. Furthermore, it is also out of the question for the conservatives to beseech the Guardian Council (GC) to disqualify him.

The truth is as soon as the current Expediency Council (EC) chief announces his candidacy their entire game plan for capturing the presidency might go up in the air.

Elsewhere, unconfirmed reports suggest that the conservatives have settled on former foreign minister Ali-Akbar Velayati as their candidate for the upcoming vote. Pundits emphasize by throwing their weight behind Velayati this early in the campaign, the rightwing can get around and avoid having to make a public choice on supporting Rafsanjani when he officially throws his hat in the ring.

Also, they are putting themselves in a position to be able to criticize Rafsanjani and his policies in the run up to the official campaign. What’s more, some conservatives are hoping that since Velayati’s positions on a number of issues are similar to Rafsanjani, his candidacy might dissuade the former president from running.

It is the opinion of some observers that the road back to the presidency for Rafsanjani is not as clear cut as it may appear. For one thing, the Seventh Majlis is indeed very “different” than anything Rafsanjani had to deal with during his eight-year tenure. Moreover, the mood in the public opinion and the press is quite unlike what it was when Rafsanjani first ran for president. For instance, back then there was just one newspaper “Salaam” critical of Rafsanjani’s policies.

It is notable that the prominent reformist Abbas Abdi who used to write for “Salaam” spent nine months in jail for his critical articles on Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani is famous for disliking criticism and having his decisions and policies probed. In the past, he has shown a penchant for intolerance to those who critique his plans, programs and performance.

What's more, the judiciary is not what it used to be during the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s. Back then, the Iranian judicial system was controlled by moderate and mainstream conservatives but now it is the ultraconservative hardliners who have made the judiciary their "power playground" and have been persistent in their verbal attacks and criticism on Rafsanjani.

Under the circumstances, two out of the three branches of government are singing their own tunes, which may be in conflict with what Rafsanjani wants to do. Again, it should be stressed that Rafsanjani always insisted on consensus within the system on the course of action he had embarked on regarding any given policy area.

In any event, commentators view Kouhkan's acerbic comments as a sort of gauntlet dropping and sword drawing by the hardline establishment of the legislature, GC, state broadcasting (IRIB), Sepah (IRGC), etc., for Rafsanjani or whoever the next president may be.

Last but not least, rumor in political circles has it that Rafsanjani has become even more determined and resolute about seeking the presidency after the recent challenge by the hardliners. Only time can tell whose will, political skills and sway is stronger in Iran's political system; Rafsanjani or the ultraconservatives?

By Iran News Daily, 13 January 2005

BY MEHRDAD SERJOOIE, TEHRAN
2005-01-13 09:00:48 "