Geneive Abdo reports in Foreign Policy that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s fence-sitting days are over; he is officially an ally of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:
In exchange for Rafsanjani’s loyalty, the supreme leader appears to have given him power over a new bill that will establish a National Elections Commission to reform the electoral process. Not only is this issue at the heart of Iran’s political crisis, but the commission would also determine the eligibility of individuals to stand as candidates in elections. And the Expediency Council, which monitors legislation and is responsible for any conflicts that might result over Iranian laws, will also decide the members who serve on the National Elections Commission.
This significant change in the elections process will greatly reduce the power of the Guardian Council, a body of six hard-line clerics and six jurists appointed by Khamenei. Historically, this Guardian Council has banned many reformist candidates from running in elections, thus ensuring conservative control even in the face of growing public discontent. The guardians were also charged with hearing complaints about election fraud and complaints from banned candidates contesting their exclusion. Now, the National Elections Commission will hold some of these responsibilities.
By bringing Rafsanjani back into the fold, Khamenei appears to be trying to reduce the power of the hard-liners, including some of those who sit on the Guardian Council. It is true that reforming Iran’s electoral process is one step toward a less totalitarian regime. However, it is unlikely to pacify the millions of Iranians who consider themselves part of the opposition. If Khamenei had made this decision soon after the June election, its effects would have, perhaps, been different. But now, many in the opposition have far greater demands, including Ahmadinejad’s resignation.
The question now arises: How will these political shifts affect the success of the Green Movement? Will Rasfanjani’s actions serve to deflate or energize the opposition? Only time will tell.
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