Possible Runoff Vote, Power Struggle in Iran

Check out yesterday's coverage of heated protests, violent clashes with security forces and reports about the family of slain protester Neda Agha Soltan.

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'├ętat--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.

Updated 9:15

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.

--Liz Heron

June 25, 2009; 9:15 AM ET  | Category:  world
Previous: Report: Neda's Family Forced Out of Home | Next: Doctor Tells of Neda's Final Moments


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Youths are throwing stones because the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is not part of Iran's constitution.

Posted by: dotellen | June 25, 2009 10:17 AM

It is a very significant event. It represents that fact that the green movement is not only confined to Tehran. People across Iran feel that Mad Ahmad's victory claim is illegal and it is manifested through the MP's action.

It would be good to know how many MP's participated last time. It will give us a better understanding of the significance of this jesture.

Posted by: SeedofChange | June 25, 2009 10:46 AM

Are we all supposed to know what MP stands for?

Posted by: brickerd | June 25, 2009 11:09 AM

So he was snubbed! but will he listen or acknowledge the message?
We had the same case here when the retard from Texas was snubbed at every turn, but the mentally challenged wino thought the people loved him.

Posted by: analyst72 | June 25, 2009 11:14 AM

"Youths are throwing stones because the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is not part of Iran's constitution."

Lebanon is awash in firearms. Its really worked well for them eh?

Posted by: Richard18 | June 25, 2009 11:15 AM

"Youths are throwing stones because the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is not part of Iran's constitution."
Lebanon is awash in firearms. Its really worked well for them eh?

Since when Christian extremist started preaching for armed terrorists (all brown / muslims) they wants to nuke :-) Extremist are somewhat bipolar. They go from killing all Iranis indiscremenantly one day to arming them all the next day :-)

Posted by: SeedofChange | June 25, 2009 11:38 AM

It is possible that Ahmadinejad actually won the election. If that were the case, it proves that the majority of Iranians are still A-holes, which we've known for a long time. You see, the big mistake the US made was at the hands of the sainted ronald reagan (note deliberate use of lower case to demonstrate my disdain for that lame-brained nincompoop). The US should have leveled Tehran the minute the hostages were safely home. The tough talking actor was really a pussy. All you thirty somethings who think that ronnie was our savior, had better get a good read on the history before you make even more of an as$ of yourselves.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | June 25, 2009 11:47 AM

MP stands for Member of Parliament

Posted by: newageblues | June 25, 2009 12:12 PM

adrienne_ najjar: It would be a crime against humanity to level Teheran. What we did in World War II would be a crime against humanity if anyone does it today.

Posted by: newageblues | June 25, 2009 12:17 PM

Newageblues may have a 1/2-functionimg cerebrum: Japan's emperor was revered as a diety by the Japanese people--can you say "allahu akbar" in the Japanese language? That another few hundred-thousand Americans would have been killed/wounded by invading Japan seems to have avoided the non-thinking mind-set of someone who may know what an MP is, but who seems to know little else about WWII.

Posted by: marc85 | June 25, 2009 1:06 PM

Stop buying Iranian oil! and the Mullahs will be out of power.
The world must decide if oil is more important than the lives of innocent women and children.
Oil money pays for Iranian bullets, pays for Iranian militia, and keeps Khomenni in control.

Posted by: jimtwest3 | June 25, 2009 1:18 PM

I see the comments section here is doing a great job of solving the world's problems.

These trends in Iran are happening because this time the U.S. was smart and stayed out of it. Mousavi has not asked for U.S. help and it's unlikely he will. He and his supporters have other things to try, like strikes, etc.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | June 25, 2009 3:28 PM

It is possible that Ahmadinejad actually won the election. If that were the case, it proves that the majority of Iranians are still A-holes....
Bush was our president for 8 years after stealing the first election through Scalia and his son. That does not make all Americans complicent in murder of 100,000 Iraquis or make us all incompetent like him.

Art of generalization (racism) and their followers belong in history's gutter.

Posted by: SeedofChange | June 25, 2009 3:43 PM

There should have been a run-off election between Bush & Gore in 2000.

Posted by: kulwicki7 | June 25, 2009 4:07 PM

Iran needs someone to liberate them from these dictators.

We should give them Shock N Awe 2.0

Posted by: SkinnyCat | June 25, 2009 4:10 PM

The West must walk a tightrope in whatever they say or do so as to prevent the tyrants in Iran from using whatever is said or done by Western leaders.

The Iranian leadership will lie about, torture, and kill the protestors and their families to hang onto power.

That said, it must be up to the people of Iran to change their sytem. Outsiders will not be able to do it because the Iranians would resent outside interference.

jimtwest3 is right -- if we could hit the Iranian government where it hurts -- in the pocket -- that would be one of the tools to undo this murderous regime; however, there are far too many nations willing to buy oil and suck up to Iran because of their oil.

The UN (the unable) stands around going "tsk tsk" but doesn't do a bloody thing to help anyone.

The West can't interfere because it would backfire.

So, we in the West can applaud and pray for the courageous people in Iran who risk their lives for their freedom.

There is naught else we can do.

Posted by: abby0802 | June 25, 2009 4:40 PM

Not buying their oil sounds great. Except that someone else will. The real solution is to use less oil; that will drive down the world price and make them poorer, less relevant, and less able to fund terrorism. The current thugs in office might be driven from office and the population might get an actual democracy. The thing about their current system is that if the Mullahs stayed out of politics they would then have an actual democracy. All the procedures and mechanics are in place, elections, a presidency, parliament, a constitution, terms of office, etc. Of course the real test of a democracy is the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. That is the real proof.

Posted by: cyberfool | June 25, 2009 5:17 PM

"Youths are throwing stones because the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is not part of Iran's constitution.

Posted by: dotellen | June 25, 2009 10:17 AM"

Unlike Iraq, where youths are shooting at Americans.

Posted by: gwailoh2007 | June 25, 2009 7:05 PM

Those who endorse a military action to push the uprising along, really have no understanding of Iran at all. Nothing, absolutely nothing would destroy the movement in Iran faster than our military intervention. Iranians are not unlike Americans, eclectic, mostly educated, and not necessarily in love with each others cultures. You see, Iran, like America, is a hodge-podge of ethnicities. There are Turkomen, Fars, Lurs, Azeris, etc, etc... Many of them don't necessarily get along. However, the one thing they have united against over and over is any attack against their country. Attacking Iran would, just as it did for Bush here, galvanize the Iranian nation for a time, and put the hardliners in an untouchable position to implement whatever they wanted. Just like in America, those who dissented would be called cowards un-Iranian, etc. Let's, for once, let Iran sort out its own mess. Comment, yes. Combat, no!

Posted by: zg1000dru | June 26, 2009 9:58 PM

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