The Guardian Council, the body vetting the almost 700 people who had registered as candidates for the Presidential election, is scheduled to make its decisions today. However, with up to 40 prominent politicians and public figures among the hopefuls, it is close to a certainty that the Council will request a five-day extension.
Yet even at this early stage, it appears that the final battle may be emerging: former President Hashemi Rafsanjani will take his challenge all the way to the run-off on 21 June.
And to stop him, the Supreme Leader and others within the system will turn to Saeed Jalili, the Secretary of the National Security Council.
Despite no previous electoral experience, Jalili has put together an impressive campaign — including through social media — to take attention from other conservatives and principlists, including the members of the Supreme Leader’s 2+1 Committee.
An example of that campaigning acumen? Jalili, Iran’s lead negotiator in nuclear talks with the 5+1 Powers, used Wednesday’s discussions with the 5+1’s Catherine Ashton — scheduled well before the formal registration of candidates — to highlight his diplomatic and political skills.
Presidential Election Watch: Mashaei Edition
Bahman Sharifzadeh, a cleric close to presidential candidate and Ahmadinejad’s right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, describes Mashaei’s campaign headquarters this morning: it is in a modest building and sparsely furnished with a chair and a rug.
Presidential Election Watch: Rafsanjani Edition
Political analyst Sadeq Zibakalam told students from Urmia University on Wednesday night that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani’s entry into the Presidential race was necessary to unite the principlists.
Zibakalam, speaking at an event titled “The Election, A Political Puzzle”, said that prior to Rafsanjani’s registration, principlists had been recommended to unite, however after the former president’s decision to run in the Presidential race, such unity was “obligatory”.
Zibakalam also predicted that the Guardian Council would not approve Ahmadinejad’s right-hand man, Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei, as a Presidential candidate.
Iran’s reporting on Wednesday’s nuclear talks is decidedly different from that of Western outlets, though neither side gave much indication of the content of the talks or what was agreed.
Western news outlets put a negative spin on the talks — the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson reports that the talks “yielded little in the way of progress“— for example, but offered little fresh information beyond the anodyne post-talks holding statement from UN Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton:
We had a useful discussion. It was not a negotiating round…We talked about the proposals we had put forward and we will now reflect on how to go on to the next stage of the process. We will be in touch shortly.
However, while Iranian reports do not offer any more information than their Western counterparts, they have offered a perfect opportunity for Iran’s nuclear negotiator — and presidential candidate — Saeed Jalili to ensure he was in the headlines this morning, pushing the positive message that it is Iran, and not the West, that is in control in the nuclear negotiations.
Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards and which is showing signs that it is backing Jalili in the Presidential race, quoting him this morning as saying that the talks were “useful“.
Iran’s ISNA news agency leads with the same line: citing Jalili as saying the Istanbul talks were “useful” and that a further meeting would be arrange.
Beyond the news reports, Jalili offered his own commentary on the talks, stressing Iran’s control:
— Dr Saeed Jalili (@DrSaeedJalili) May 15, 2013
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