Iran General NewsIran’s ruling clerics fear street protests

Iran’s ruling clerics fear street protests

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Iran Focus: Paris, Jun. 25 – A day after the surprise election of the ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran as the new President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country’s security forces were placed on heightened state of alert throughout Saturday to prevent any street demonstrations.
Iran Focus

Paris, Jun. 25 – A day after the surprise election of the ultra-conservative mayor of Tehran as the new President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country’s security forces were placed on heightened state of alert throughout Saturday to prevent any street demonstrations.

The move reflected fears in the ruling clerical circles that a dissatisfied young population could react with fury to what many see as a “coup” by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the hard-line institutions under his control to consolidate their power.

The furious reaction of the loser, former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to the election results has added to the highly charged political climate in Tehran.

In a statement released today, Rafsanjani accused state institutions of “using all available means in an organised way and illegally interfering in the elections”.

“If God’s wrath takes revenge, it will not be directed at the Iranian people and the Islamic revolution, but against the real criminals, who will be punished”, the former President said in an oblique reference to the powerful clerics around Khamenei.

Khamenei last night banned all street demonstrations following the results of the presidential elections amid concerns that opponents of the regime would take the opportunity to turn street gatherings into anti-government protests.

“Dragging people on to the streets . . . under any pretext is against the interests of the country”, Khamenei declared in a statement read on the state-run radio and television.

“Khamenei has taken a big gamble”, said Shahin Soltani, an Iran affairs analyst based in the Hague. “He has circled the wagons to be in a better position to face the growing crisis over Iran. But he has alienated not only Hashemi Rafsanjani, but many senior clerics who don’t want to see all the power concentrated in the hands of the ultra-conservatives. This massive alienation leaves him in a vulnerable position, despite the success of his strategy to put his man in the presidential office”.

Other analysts see a rising potential for spontaneous demonstrations by young people, women and other sections of the disaffected population.

“It’s too early to speak of a velvet or orange revolution in Iran”, Masoud Zabeti, an Iran Focus analyst based in London, said in telephone interview. “But the basic ingredients – widespread discontent, power struggle at the top of the regime, and a demoralized security force – are all there. Khamenei has every right to be very fearful of street protests that could easily get out of hand”.

In recent days there have been many demonstrations in Tehran and other major cities calling for a boycott of the elections, a referendum, and an end to clerical rule. None has been on a scale to pose a serious threat to clerical authority, but the security forces have taken no chances and used violence to disperse the protesters.

“The Islamic Republic is going through the most perilous phase of its existence since the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989”, Zabeti said. “In such a situation, even limited demonstrations could be dangerous”.

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