By: Jabbar Fazeli, MD
Reformist newspaper Etemaad (not to be confused with the closed Etemad-e Melli, which was affiliated with the opposition figure Karoobi) reported today that the supreme leader met with three reformist figures (1). The paper did not divulge the date of the meeting. This would be the first such meeting in the past 3.5 years.
With the presidential elections drawing near, it is still unclear whether the "reformist" candidates will be allowed to run. As most are aware, the "democratic" system in Iran is unique in that you are "free" to vote for whomever you want so long as he or she is one of the "preselected" group of individuals with proven loyalty to the IR regime. In 2009, many would argue that having failed to disqualify the "opposition" candidates from running, the regime resorted to vote rigging.
The government body in charge of approving and disqualifying candidates is the Guardian Council (2). It consists of twelve members, half appointed directly by the supreme leader, and the other half are nominated by the judiciary and then approved by parliament. The head of the "Guardian Council", Ayatollah Janati gave an interview on Dec 14, 2012 in which he made it clear that “seditionists [a term used for reformists] could not participate in the  elections" and that "they should have no misgivings about that" (3,4). It is worth noting that Janati was public in his support for Ahmadinejad's candidacy during the last "election".
For "reformists" it remains to be seen if they would even participate in the elections, and if they do, how many candidates, if any, would be considered loyal enough by the regime to allow their names on the ballot.
Even though the supreme leader has in the past pressured the guardian council to reverse their decisions to bar some candidates, there is no indications that he would do so this time around (7). The three reformists meeting with the supreme leader may still be holding hope that he might.
Aside from the fairness issue, there is no guarantee the election itself would be free at the ballot box (no international or independent monitors are allowed). Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad, and Rezai, among others, have called for a "free and transparent election" but they were rebuffed by the supreme leader when he said that "hinting at the need for transparent and free elections plays in the hand of the enemies"(headline below).
The Supreme leader's representative in the IRGC was very open about the appropriateness of engineering the elections for the greater good (5). Whatever the degree of engineering by the IRGC, the Guardian Council, and the supreme leader, the IRGC is guaranteed to be a major player in this election, at least as the power on the street that insures the regime's survival, regardless of the election outcome.(6)
Despite all the political drama, the upcoming election in Iran is unlikely to alter the perception that the IR is a true dictatorship despite its complex democratic facade.
Photo credit: demdigest.net