Possible Runoff Vote, Power Struggle in Iran
Updated 1:34 p.m.
A report in The Nation by an Iranian journalist (writing under the pseudonym Babak Sarfaraz) suggests that Hashemi Rafsanjani is making behind-the-scenes moves against Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani is the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which has the authority to appoint and remove the supreme leader from office.
According to a well-placed source in the holy city of Qom, Rafsanjani is working furiously behind the scenes to call for an emergency meeting of the Khobregan, or Assembly of Experts--the elite all-cleric body that can unseat the Supreme Leader or dilute his prerogatives. The juridical case against Khamenei would involve several counts. First, he would be charged with countenancing a coup d'état--albeit a bloodless one--without consulting with the Khobregan. Second, he would stand accused of deceitfully plotting to oust Rafsanjani--who is the Khobregan chairman and nominally the country's third-most-important authority--from his positions of power. Third, he would be said to have threatened the very stability of the republic with his ambition and recklessness.
Rafsanjani's purported plan is to replace Khamenei's one-person dictatorship with a Leadership Council composed of three or more high-ranking clerics; this formula was proposed and then abandoned in 1989 by several prominent clerics. Rafsanjani will likely recommend giving a seat to Khamenei on the council to prevent a violent backlash by his fanatic loyalists. It is not clear if Rafsanjani will have the backing of the two-thirds of the chamber members needed for such a change, though the balance of forces within the Khobregan could be tipped by the events unfolding in the streets. As a symbolic gesture, Rafsanjani is said to favor holding the meeting in Qom--the nation's religious center, which Khamenei has diminished--rather than in Tehran, where it has been held before.
The Nation's account jibes with sections of the report from Tehran Bureau, quoted in our earlier update:
There is report that Rafsanjani has succeeded to get the signatures and support of many of the high clerics in Qom denouncing the election. If they openly denounce the election that could be a colossal blow to the supreme leader, and the much diminished legitimacy of the institution of Velayat-e Faqih and his authority.
Updated 12:33 p.m.
The independent Tehran Bureau, founded by Iranian-born journalist Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, is reporting that a compromise runoff vote may be possible in Iran. The site acknowledges that the story is unconfirmed -- and that even if true, the situation could change rapidly-- but says it comes from sources they consider reliable. The Post has not independently verified the report.
Tehran Bureau quotes Mehdi Noorbaksh of the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology:
There is a possibility, and I am saying a possibility, for a compromise on the election result among the involved parties in Iran in the next couple of days. I received a call from Iran late last night indicating that there is a possibility for a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.
Noorbaksh notes several factors that could lend support to such a theory, including reports of divisions within the Revolutionary Guard, and the emerging outlines of a political coalition against Ahmadinejad.
As The Post's Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin reported this morning:
The influential head of Iran's parliament, former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, joined other political figures in refusing to attend a dinner organized by Ahmadinejad, the opposition newspaper Etemaad-e Melli reported. Larijani has criticized the government's vilification of Mousavi and is encouraging state television to give him airtime to explain his views.
Another influential politician, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, also spoke out against official denunciations of opposition supporters as "anti-revolutionaries," a loaded term in Iran used for enemies of the state. Iranians who took to the streets June 15 "were part of the people, part of the voters, and they had doubts on the election," the Mehr News Agency quoted Ghalibaf as saying. "All of their slogans were in support of the system and the revolution, even though wrongful accusations were made about this. Everything must be explained to the people; you can't solve anything with force and violence."
Top government officials, however, continued to take a hard line on the protests.
More than 180 Iranian members of Parliament (called MPs in British parlance) didn't come to the victory party for disputed presidential election winner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to local press reports in Tehran, the BBC says.
All 290 MPs were invited to the victory party on Wednesday night, but only 105 turned up, the reports say. A BBC correspondent says the move is a sign of the deep split at the top of Iran after disputed presidential polls.
Meanwhile, Omid Habibinia, a widely cited Iranian journalist and blogger currently living in Switzerland, is reporting through Twitter that more protests, in Tehran's Enghelab Square and elsewhere, are being met with violent crackdowns today:
Gunshots being heard from Enghelab St..... Reports: A group of youth gathering behing Police Blockage at Jamalzadeh Junc. trowing stones.... Gunshots being Heard from Karegar Jonobi St, Near Enghlab SQ (Central Tehran).... Clashes at Vali Asr Cr. People Shouthing: Death to Khameni.... Somebody Wrote Me I will be in Demo Soon, If I Shoot Dead Please Pay for "Bullets Fee" and Take my Body Out!... Army Helicopters Flying Over Protesters at Enghelab Sq.... Reports:Anti-Riot Policr at Enghelab SQ now facing in two directions fighting two sides.
Due to restrictions on foreign reporters in Iran, The Post cannot verify the authenticity of these reports.
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