Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei

Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, works in an almost empty room. He’s seated in a humble leather chair. In the back, behind the curtains which remain closed most of the time, a window overlooks some trees and administrative buildings that house the “office” of the Guardian: the most powerful government of Iran, which assists in defining the policy to be followed on all major domestic and foreign issues.
This office may soon have a new master. A third guide after Khamenei and the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, who died in 1989. But who will it be? This question runs through the campaign for the elections of February 26, during which Parliamentary and the Assembly of Experts must be selected and renewed. This discrete body of 88 clerics elected for eight years, is responsible for appointing the successor to the Guardian. Its president, Mohammad Yazdi, reported in early February that Mr. Khamenei, aged 76, had wished that it “stands ready” for such an eventuality.
Ali Khamenei is one of the oldest serving leaders among nations, and pivotal in Iranian political life. For twenty-seven years, he was able to exercise a role of arbitrator between political currents and elected and unelected institutions, which through the years of reconstruction after the war against Iraq (1980-1988), claims social reform under the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and during the nuclear crisis. Ambivalence Guardian: Khamenei was the original supporter, and many would say ‘backer’ of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his confrontation with the West on the nuclear issue, he supported the crackdown that followed the disputed re-election in 2009; but it is also Ali Khamenei who decided the resumption of secret bilateral negotiations with the US on the nuclear issue in 2011, and it was he who had the last word on the signing the Vienna agreement in July 2015, opening the way to pacification of the Iranian political space that is emerging in these parliamentary elections.

“It’s hard to isolate a candidate”

“During the reign of Imam Khomeini, many Western commentators predicted that the Islamic Republic would end with him. This crisis did not unfold, “says Hamid Reza Taraghi, representative of the Guardian to the charitable foundation Imam Khomeini. “It will be the same after Ali Khamenei,” he predicts.
Imam Khomeini had died a few months after he disavowed his heir said Ayatollah Ali Montazeri. Ali Khamenei, then President of the Republic, emerged as a candidate default, after arbitrations conducted at the highest level, not only in the Assembly. senior clerics criticised for its lack of religious qualification – Imam Khomeini had always called “Hojatoleslam” clerical rank high but common to many thousands of people in Iran. It imposed its will stature over the years: more political circles close to the military on which he has all authority, more present in the secular life – he travels regularly in the provinces and even presides over weddings.
His successor  may suffer from a lack of popular awareness. “The new generation of integrated clerics in the diet could be distinguished during the years of resistance against the Shah and during the war. It is difficult to isolate one candidate from others, “says Saeid Rahaei, vice president Mofid University in Qom, the” capital “of the Iranian clergy.
Many names circulate in the corridors of seminaries of Qom, which are pure speculation. Hassan Khomeini,the grand-son of the Guardian, may be considered, but his candidacy, coupled with the reformist, was dismissed following a selection process that ensures the election of a clearly conservative congregation. Out of the 800 candidates, only 166 were received by a council of jurists appointed by the Guardian and the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani – name was also mentioned.

Continuity of power?

…asked Hamid Reza Taraghi raising his hands to heaven. He recalled that the Office of the Guardian has taken enough scale to ensure the continuity of the exercise of power, regardless of the man for the position. “Imam Khomeini delegated the control of armies but Ali Khamenei built the developing of services responsible for the economy, social affairs and political guidelines. We went from 200 people a structure around a thousand, “he says.
This centralization has been the subject of criticism, including former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a candidate for the Assembly of Experts at the head of a moderate list alongside President Hassan Rouhani. Meeting in Qom, Ayatollah Saanei, a reformist figure, trusts that the Assembly may in future exercise control over the actions of the Guardian, a prerogative that it has never exercised. Candidates “know the duties of the Assembly, which is to examine all matters dependent on the Guardian, but it is now in a position above the law, “he said. Sadegh Larijani denounced last week such a project, deeming it “illegal, without any constitutional basis.”
In Tehran, reformist voters call the middle class, traditionally having more voters than those of the provinces, to counter the most “hard-lined” candidates. Their main target, Ayatollah Mezbah-Yazdi, warned, was in  January when they attempted to revoke the Supreme Leader.”

Article published by Le Monde – Written by Louis Imbert

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