Monday, February 11, 2008

Men in Uniform Position Themselves for the Elections

Arash Sigarchi - The massive disqualification of reformist candidates for the March 14 Majlis elections ‎that took place over the last few weeks in Iran overshadowed the strong military presence ‎in the politics of the country. The presence of the Passdaran Revolutionary Guards in the ‎upcoming elections is so prominent that in addition to the presence of its members in the ‎executive and supervisory boards, they shall also be at the elections stations either as ‎executive officers or as security officers enforcing security.‎

Soon after general Afshar took up his new post as the new chief of the country’s ‎Elections Board, it selected the members of the Executive Boards. I the past, it was the ‎practice to use university professors and presidents for these posts, this time, individuals ‎close to the Passdaran and the Basij mobilization force were handpicked for the job.‎
Their first job was to review the qualifications and background of the candidates who had ‎signed up to stand for elections. Passdaran members played the key role in eliminating ‎those candidates that are known as the reformists. Before these boards began their work, ‎Sobh Sadegh, an internal newsletter of the Passdaran wrote this, “Since reformists will be ‎eliminated from the elections process, they are advised to remove themselves from such ‎candidacy and withdraw from the elections.”‎
At the same time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran publicly announced, ‎‎“We should be careful not to allow those individuals who look up to the US [as their ‎inspiration] to succeed in getting into the Majlis.” Other Passdaran commanders made ‎similar remarks. For example, the commander of the Ghazvin Passdaran division stressed ‎that the sixth Majlis (whose majority comprised of reformist candidates between 2000 ‎and 2004) should not be repeated. “We should not allow contaminated individuals to ‎enter the Majlis and contaminate it as well. The untrustworthy and outsiders should not ‎enter the Majlis,” he said. Such directives continued until quite recently. Just two days ‎ago general Nasser Shabani, commander of the Staff and Officer’s College of the ‎Passdaran (DAFOOS) verbally attacked reformers and criticized them for even having ‎the guts to nominate themselves for the Majlis.‎
It is clear that the Passdaran is bent on ensuring that the Majlis remains firmly in the ‎hands of the ideologues. And if any body still has any doubts, then one should listen to ‎the words of the representative of the supreme leader in the Passdaran. “We support the ‎ideologues,” he said. ‎
In addition to such directives, the other concern that many have about the Passdaran and ‎the Basij is their planned presence at voting stations. In the past it was a tradition to use ‎employees from the Ministry of Education or other government offices as monitors at the ‎voting stations. But now, according to a website close to reformers, “A proposal has been ‎made to replace these individuals with people from the Basij.” But concerns go beyond ‎even this. The plans are to use the Passdaran to enforce security at the polling stations In ‎this regard, the chief of police is on record to have said, “We shall utilize Basij and ‎Passdaran forces in consultation with the provincial and township security bureaus to ‎provide security for the elections.”‎
So, the Passdaran corps not only has members in the Executive Boards that vet ‎candidates to the Majlis, it also members in the Supervisory boards that are the main arm ‎of the Guardians Council, in the polling stations as monitors and as law enforcement ‎officers. All of this of course is in addition to having many candidates of their own for the ‎Majlis as well. ‎

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