Saturday, October 16, 2004

Reactionaries move to stop Rafsanjani presidency bid

Daily Times - Site Edition: "REGION: Iranian MPs move to stop Rafsanjani presidency bid

* Hardline MPs collecting signatures to propose a bill to prevent anyone more than 65 years of age from standing

TEHRAN: Iran’s conservative MPs are drumming up support for a bill that would bar influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from standing for the post again next year, newspapers reported on Saturday.

Mid-ranking cleric Rafsanjani, 70, is styled as a pragmatic conservative, whose 1989-1997 presidency was characterised by modest economic and cultural liberalisation. Rafsanjani has said he would stand for the presidency in summer 2005 if there were no other suitable candidates. Radical conservatives in parliament, who came to power in late May after thousands of reformist candidates were banned, have stubbornly resisted privatisations, foreign investment and greater social freedoms

Newspapers reported hardline MPs Ali Ahmadi and Reza Talainik were collecting signatures to propose a bill to stop anyone more than 65 years old from standing, a further sign of rifts opening within the conservative camp of oil-rich Iran.

“The suggestion is that those who initiated the draft plan did so to stop people like Rafsanjani who is 70...and pave the way for the candidacy of the so-called right-wingers,” wrote the Jomhuri-ye Eslami daily. Rafsanjani heads the Expediency Council, Iran’s top legislative arbitration body, that earlier this month overturned a key plank of Iran’s constitution to allow large-scale sales of state assets.

This rebuffed parliamentarians who had spent their first few months in power unravelling a slew of planned privatisations and foreign investment deals.

Liberal President Mohammad Khatami steps down in 2005. His attempts to push through sweeping economic and social reforms having been largely frustrated by hardliners. The reformist candidate of choice had been Mirhossein Mousavi, a prime minister during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, but he renounced his candidacy earlier this month.

“After Mirhossein Mousavi, the only candidate who can challenge the conservatives is Abkar Hashemi Rafsanjani,” said Ali Akbar Mousavi-Khoeini, a member of the League of Combatant Clerics, a reformist party. Prominent hardliners tipped for the presidency are Ali Akbar Velayati, an ex-foreign minister, and Ali Larijani, former head of the state broadcast media. They are now both advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani is keeping his cards close to his chest."