Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Iran's interior ministry warns against electoral violations

Islamic Republic News Agency:
Iran's Interior Ministry threatened Tuesday to disclose 'startling' tactics which 'certain candidates' had adopted ahead of the presidential election later this month.

The ministry's spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani cited cases of 'attack on certain election headquarters and their supporters, involving insult and battery, as well as interference of certain institutions and organizations in the electoral process'. READ MORE

"If these violations exceed the limits, we will talk more transparently and expressly in the coming days," the official warned in a news conference.

"Certain candidates are audaciously throwing the achievements of the (Islamic) Revolution into question," he said, without elaborating.

An IRNA correspondent had seen a bevy of cars, carrying posters of a presidential candidate in the upmarket San'at square in northwestern Tehran, with some of them playing loud Western music in broad daylight, much to the surprise of the onlookers.

"It is surprising that some individuals, who claim to be defending the existing establishment, have resorted to such tactics," Khanjani said.

"The achievements of the Islamic Revolution must not be brought into question for a handful of extra votes," he added.

The Interior Minister spokesman also cited cases of electoral violations, including placing billboards in public sites in the capital, saying the police and municipality had been turning a blind eye to them.

"During the previous parliamentary election, all the billboards of a certain political current were removed overnight, but it is questionable that this is not the case this time around.

"Tehran Municipality and Police not only have not cooperated with the Governorate in removing electoral violations, but have refrained from doing so," Khanjani said.

The official also cited other cases of violations, including writing graffiti and distributing 'night letters against the candidates' which he said are illegal.

Khanjani described interference of armed forces' in the election as 'dangerous', saying cases of such behavior 'have now gone beyond the limit of doubt'.

Last month, Interior Minister Adolvahed Moussavi Lari asked military forces to steer clear of the presidential election.

In a letter to the Guardian Council, Moussavi Lari protested to remarks attributed to the supervisory body's spokesman who had reportedly said that there was no legal ban on the military forces' intervention in the 'executive and supervisory domains' of the polls.

The interior minister has described the remarks as 'the cause of escalating concerns and a note of alarm against the entry of armed forces into the electoral process and a direct threat to a healthy election'.

In similar statements in the central city of Shiraz, Moussavi Lari cautioned the volunteer Basij forces against interfering in the election process.

"Basij, as a military force, cannot interfere in the presidential election and the interference of the Basij members is tantamount to the interference of other armed forces," he said.

"The whole set of the laws and directives served by the chief commander to all military and police forces has banned the interference of these forces in the elections.

"According to these laws, none of the members of the Sepah (the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, Basij, army and police, have the right to interfere in the elections," Moussavi Lari added.

The Guardian Council has qualified eight candidates, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to run in the June 17 election.

The other qualified candidates are former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ex-police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as well as Mohsen Rezaei, the former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, and the former head of the state broadcasting Ali Larijani.

Two other candidates, former higher education minister Mostafa Moin and Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh, were reinstated after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked the Guardian Council to clear them.

The two were among more than 1,000 aspirants who were disqualified from the election as the Guardian Council expressed frustration with the high number of registrations.

Moussavi Lari also called on supporters of the candidates to observe 'legal norms' in the electoral campaigning.

"There are rules for campaigning which have been defined by law, and if there are not respected...this will lead to general disappointment among the public," he said.

Rafsanjani's office had earlier denied that the veteran politician was pulling out of the June 17 presidential election.

In a statement a copy of which was faxed to IRNA, the office said reports about Rafsanjani's intention to withdraw his candidacy 'lacked authenticity'.

"Certain currents ... are stoking up rumors about possible pullout of Hashemi Rafsanjani from the 9th presidential election and using rumor-mongering devices to spread them in the society which are not true at all," it said.

"Hashemi Rafsanjani's decision to participate at the election came after months of rumination and consultations ... and by registering he has stepped onto an irreversible road," the statement added.

As a matter of fact, Rafsanjani held Iranians on tenterhook after dropping a hint to make a comeback, but falling short of making a clear announcement.

He described presidential candidacy a bitter pill which he had to swallow.

"The issue of presidency is among the current preoccupations of my mind and although I would like someone else to accept this responsibility, I think I have to take this bitter medicine," he said.

Electoral campaigning began on the morning of May 25 but few hours later hackers targeted Larijani's website, defacing his home page which resulted in its subsequent crash.

The site was attacked by 'unknown elements during which main contents of the site were hacked and replaced with other sentences and minutes later the site totally crashed', the official in charge of the website announced.

"Ill manners like these unfortunately come in the early days of the electoral campaigning, serve as a warning to the related officials," he added.

Larijani's electoral headquarters had also to deny reports that he intended to pull out of the race in favor of other candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

"Unfortunately, this news is mostly being reported in the press by the supporters of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani," it said in a statement, denouncing the report as part of a 'psychological war'.