Clerical council refuses to nullify election

I know next to nothing about how the clerics in Iran update, but a variety of things I’ve read suggest that they are not in lockstep with Khamenei. But it does look like the Guardian Council will certify the election results:

Iran’s most powerful oversight council has refused to nullify the contested presidential election just one day after it announced that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by three million, further tarnishing a presidential election that has set off the most sustained challenge to Iran’s leadership in 30 years, Iranian state television said Tuesday.

[….]

The Guardian Council — a 12-member panel of clerics entrusted with overseeing and validating elections —has until Wednesday to certify the election as valid. The spokesman’s remarks seem to make that certification even more of a certainty. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, pronounced the vote fair in a major sermon last Friday.

Update. In the comments, Woodrow writes:

The Guardian Council are not the clerics you are looking forthey speak about. Those are, among others, the ones that Rafsanjani has been, allegedly, pulling the strings of to move Khamenei out. Even if the GC certifies, Rafsanjani can legally move to have Khamenei punted via the Assembly of Experts, which would presumably end this whole tragic crapshoot.

Update update. Laura Secor provides some interesting background in the New Yorker:

When Moussavi was Prime Minister, in the nineteen-eighties, he belonged to a faction known as the Islamic Left. It shared power with a rival faction, the Islamic Right, led by Khamenei, who was then the President. When Moussavi and Khamenei clashed, as they often did, the charismatic leader of the Islamic Revolution and the supreme leader of the country, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, intervened—most frequently on Moussavi’s side.

The entire article is worth read.

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21 replies
  1. 1

    a variety of things I’ve read suggest that they are not in lockstep with Khamenei.

    The Guardian Council are not the clerics you are looking forthey speak about. Those are, among others, the ones that Rafsanjani has been, allegedly, pulling the strings of to move Khamenei out. Even if the GC certifies, Rafsanjani can legally move to have Khamenei punted via the Assembly of Experts, which would presumably end this whole tragic crapshoot.

  2. 2
    Punchy says:

    OT:

    Ed McMahon just kicked. Hoh hoh hoh….YES! RIP.

  3. 3
    Wilson Heath says:

    Whatever the composition and bureaucratic niche, it’s just another branch of the government that has decided that it doesn’t deserve to survive when this thing tips. It’s just a matter of time.

  4. 4
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Imagine a council like that certifying such a suspect election. What is it anyway, a sort of supreme, I don’t know, court, of some kind?

    What a backward country.

  5. 5
    NonyNony says:

    I believe that Woodrow has it correct, if my admittedly amateur understanding of Iranian government is correct. The Guardian Council monitors the President and is pretty much under the thumb of the Supreme Leader – there really wasn’t a question of whether they were going to rule any other way once Khameni got up on Friday and told everyone to shut up and go home. But the Assembly of Experts is supposed to monitor the Supreme Leader, and is the only group that can remove a Supreme Leader from power. Though how this works in fact rather than theory is questionable – even though it’s in their Constitution it’s never been done before, and Khameni pretty much controls the military, and everything I’ve read says that they’re loyal to him still. So if the Assembly moves to remove Khameni, the military might decide to throw the Republic part out entirely and just make the place a military state.

  6. 6
    PeakVT says:

    A diagram may make everything clearer. Or not.

  7. 7
    Zifnab says:

    So Ackamahdinnajob gets to remain employed, but his boss is getting fired? Interesting.

    That said, I was under the impression that the Iranian President commanded the Revolutionary Guard. So if the left wing takes command of the Supreme Leader slot, but the right still commands the “elected” Presidency… well, ask Saddam and Stalin how well that worked out for their oppositions.

  8. 8
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    The Guardian Council

    the Supreme Leader

    the Assembly of Experts

    Sounds like a Monty Python sketch.

  9. 9
    stras says:

    Except that the Assembly of Experts is hardly going to have Khamenei dismissed at this point. Fifty of the eighty members of the Assembly signed on to a letter of support for Khamenei right before his Friday prayer sermon last week; that means Khamenei has the Assembly on his side, and Rafsanjani’s efforts to pull off a coup are going to fizzle.

  10. 10
    stras says:

    Here’s a link for that, by the way, from Asia Times Online, which has been worth reading throughout this entire mess.

  11. 11

    Every time I read “Supreme Leader” just for a split second my minds pictures Diana Ross. Does mean Ahmadi is a love child, as it were?

  12. 12
    NonyNony says:

    @Zifnab:

    So Ackamahdinnajob gets to remain employed, but his boss is getting fired? Interesting.

    No, I don’t think so. You’re looking at it wrong and treating this like a standard democratic-republic setup when it really isn’t. If the Assembly of Experts decide to oust the Supreme Leader Ahmadinejad will not last long because the new Supreme Leader will declare the election tainted and call for new ballots (that’s going to be pro forma – how else do you get the protesters to calm down at this point?). After the bungle that just went on, it’s doubtful that Ahmadinejad would survive a legitimate election.

    And that’s assuming that the clerics at Qom don’t do something radical like reinterpret “Guardianship” to insist that the whole idea of having a Supreme Leader is a bad idea. They may – apparently there have been fights about this ever since Khomeni reinterpreted “Guardianship” to mean “clerical rule over the state”. Some of the Ayatollahs actually consider the kind of rule that Khomeni advocated to be “heretical” (for lack of a better word), and it may be that this is the opportunity for them to flex a bit and bring things more in line with what their vision of Guardianship would be (Sistani in Iraq is one of the folks who advocates against Iranian-style Guardianship over the state, for example). Of course there’s going to be a power struggle over it, but frankly from what I’ve read over the years the Grand Ayatollahs are still kind of peeved that Khameni is in that Supreme Leader slot in the first place because his Ayatollah credentials are shady and he’s not very well respected as a religious thinker.

    (And of course all of this presumes that if the Assembly of Experts moves that Khameni does the right thing and steps down. He won’t of course – guys like that just don’t. So if the Assembly moves it will be because they’re ready and willing to potentially start a civil war over this. We’ll see, I guess. I’ll be kind of surprised if they actually pull the trigger, but I don’t see how this all ends if they don’t.)

  13. 13
    Zifnab says:

    @The Grand Panjandrum: I always picture Cobra Commander.

  14. 14
    Zifnab says:

    No, I don’t think so. You’re looking at it wrong and treating this like a standard democratic-republic setup when it really isn’t. If the Assembly of Experts decide to oust the Supreme Leader Ahmadinejad will not last long because the new Supreme Leader will declare the election tainted and call for new ballots (that’s going to be pro forma – how else do you get the protesters to calm down at this point?).

    Since the President is a nominal leadership position anyway, I imagine slotting in a new Supreme Leader will assuage the mobs to a degree – they get a leadership change, just not in the office they voted for. And then the Supreme Leader uses his credentials to run the country over Ahmedinijad’s head.

    But, like I was saying, I’m pretty sure the President controls the domestic security forces. So there’s a question of how much power any Supreme Leader actually wields. It could be that the dynamics have completely flipped behind the scenes and it’s Ahmedinijad telling Khomeni what to do and say. In this case, even if the Council of Experts does pry Khomeni out of his seat, ultimate authority still rests in the guy carrying the most guns. We could see Iran convert to a military dictatorship with the current President taking up a position like Saddam did in Iraq.

  15. 15
    stras says:

    Seriously, people, Rafsanjani isn’t going to be replacing Khamenei. He doesn’t have the votes.

  16. 16

    @Zifnab: G.I. Joe reference! Win.

  17. 17
    Tsulagi says:

    Seems like Khamenei is scrambling to prove the old atheist Stalin’s maxim: He who votes is not important, he who counts the votes is. I think even real American Tits Harris would agree with that one.

    the supreme leader of the country, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, intervened—most frequently on Moussavi’s side.

    A lesson not lost on Khamenei. The real power is with the Supreme Leader, not the President of Iran.

    As far as the military, while the regular Army and police nominally answer to the president, their constitution subordinates the executive branch to the supreme leader. Also, the supreme leader directly controls the better trained and equipped Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and the Basij who are roughly akin to their National Guard. Both originally formed by Khomeini. That top turban knew while it was all nice and good to speak with God’s authority, it didn’t hurt to have your own trigger pullers here on Earth.

  18. 18
    ChrisB says:

    Meanwhile, those Iranian soccer players who wore green wristbands have been banned for life:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....rotest-ban

    (via Andrew Sullivan). Best line from the Guardian article:

    The gesture acutely embarrassed Iranian officials. The team’s chief administrative officer, Mansour Pourhiedari, initially claimed the wristbands had been intended as a religious tribute to a revered Shia figure in the hope that it would deliver a victory on the pitch.

  19. 19
    bjacques says:

    They aren’t clerics; they’re evil high priests. May they fail their saving throw against revolution.

  20. 20
    Elie says:

    Attached a link to Al Giordano’s site, The Field — very informative with I think some interesting analysis of events and how they may play out

    http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield

  21. 21

    @stras: As reposted by Sully (I use this link because the HuffPo liveblog is a huge one-pager, and also archived):

    One of Nico Pitney’s readers says this is not what it seems:
    I just wanted to point out that the letter of support written by assembly of experts in support of Khamenei’s sermon is only signed by the deputy leader of the assembly, who is a former head of the judiciary and a staunch supporter of ahmadinejad, as well as a rival of Rafsanjani for the assembly’s leadership election. He is the only one signing the letter and the government sponsored news media are reporting it as a letter from the full assembly.

    That said, I would counter with the notion that, truthfully, no one outside of the deep internals of Iranian politics really knows what’s going to occur. this is why I threw in “allegedly” — with his kids having been send to jail for a spell, it’s impossible to know where Rafsanjani stands at the moment. The legal causeway exists — but then, according to Musavi, there is supported to be a right to free assembly w/o permit, as well, as we see how far that’s gone.

    I’d also second The Field, which has been doing an amazing job with analysis of how this Movement might play out vis a vis other, similar, actions. His latest post is a summation of a conversation he had with Iranian experts as well as others on the most likely route for this Movement, and quite interesting.

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