Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Oct. 11 Irans former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered on Wednesday to stand in the upcoming Assembly of Experts elections, a day before the registration period for all candidates ended.
Tehran, Iran, Oct. 11 Irans former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered on Wednesday to stand in the upcoming Assembly of Experts elections, a day before the registration period for all candidates ended.
Last week, Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi appointed Mojtaba Hashemi Samareh, a deputy Interior Minister and close ally of hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as head of the election commission.
More than 300 clerics have registered so far to stand in the December 15 polls which is seen by many Iran analysts as effectively a contest for power by Rafsanjani and Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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 countrys municipal elections.
Last month, 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 commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps 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.
According to analysts, Rafsanjani seeks to take control of the Assembly of Experts in order to undermine Khamenei and install himself as the main powerbroker, thereby pursuing a less confrontational strategy with the West.