News Special Wire Ahmadinejad ally appointed in charge of key Iran polls

Ahmadinejad ally appointed in charge of key Iran polls

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Oct. 07 – A close ally to hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been appointed as the supervisor of the key upcoming Assembly of Experts polls, according to an announcement by the Interior Ministry. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Oct. 07 – A close ally to hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been appointed as the supervisor of the key upcoming Assembly of Experts polls, according to an announcement by the Interior Ministry.

Campaigning began earlier this week for the December 15 polls which is seen by many Iran analysts as effectively a contest for power by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi appointed on Thursday Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh as head of the election commission.

Hashemi Samareh was recently installed as a Deputy Interior Minister.

Hashemi Samareh and Ahmadinejad have a long history together from their student years and they are married to two sisters. Hashemi Samareh served as a top adviser to Ahmadinejad when he was mayor of Tehran and he continues to hold huge sway over Ahmadinejad’s political decisions. He travels with the hard-line president on nearly all trips abroad and he was recently dispatched to Paris to deliver a private message from Ahmadinejad to French President Jacques Chirac.

Hashemi Samareh is known in intelligence circles for having previously concocted the “Psychology of the Infidels” training program which is designed to root out officials disloyal to the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

His instalment at the new post is a massive boost for the hard-line Khamenei camp. Ahmadinejad, a former top commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, is fiercely loyal to the Supreme Leader.

Ahmadinejad’s much-disputed victory over Rafsanjani in the June 2005 presidential race has allowed Khamenei to strengthen his grip on power, analysts say.

Rafsanjani currently sits as chairman of the State Expediency Council (SEC) and deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics entrusted with the task of selecting the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, 85, is chairman of the assembly but he is rumoured to step down from the post due to his rapidly deteriorating health.

Meshkini is reportedly afflicted with an advanced form of cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy for several months. The frail and emaciated cleric delivered the opening speech of a three-day session of the Assembly of Experts in March, but he was so ill that he had to leave shortly afterwards. The rest of the session was chaired by his deputy, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.

Assembly members are elected by the public to eight-year terms. Polling was last conducted in 1998. This year the elections will coincide with the country’s municipal elections.

On Thursday, 25 candidates registered to stand for election into the assembly, state media reported on Friday.

Last week, an old letter by the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini hinting at a desire to develop nuclear weapons was brought to light by Rafsanjani in what many analysts said was an attempt by the influential cleric to damage the reputation of former IRGC commanders currently allied to the Khamenei camp.

In the letter, written in 1988, Khomeini quoted the country’s top military commander of the time as saying that Iran would need nuclear and laser weapons in order to win the war with Iraq.

“The decision by Rafsanjani to publish Khomeini’s letter is an indication of the seriousness of his feuding with the Supreme Leader”, a Tehran analyst who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject said. “Unquestionably, these two individuals are the pillars of the Islamic Republic and they are battling for the ultimate leadership of the regime”.

Khamenei, through his protégé Ahmadinejad, has launched a counter-attack on Rafsanjani and is trying to disgrace him, the analyst said. “You have to take into consideration the fact that in Iran there is no such thing as a free election. So, the appointment of Hashemi Samareh as head of the election commission should serve as a warning to Rafsanjani that he will likely suffer another blow in this election as he did in the [June 2005″> presidential elections”.

“The Assembly of Experts is Rafsanjani last castle. If he takes control there, then he stands a chance of ousting Khamenei and installing himself as the main powerbroker and thereby pursuing a less confrontational strategy with the West. If not, then his days are numbered and he cannot possibly survive on the political scene”.

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