Presidential election to put regime’s claims to the test, says Tajzadeh

Top reformist remarks on upcoming vote

The coming weeks will determine whether Iran’s ruling elite, including its leader, are committed to defending the people’s right to shape their own destiny, says a top reformist figure currently behind bars.

In his most recent piece, which was published by the Noroozwebsite, Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent pro-reform figure in the country, discussed the 14 June presidential election.

Tajzadeh, who is currently serving a six-year jail term in the quarantine ward of the notorious Evin Prison, said that the majority of the population strongly favoured the candidacy of former president Mohammad Khatami in the upcoming race.

Ahmadinejad recently said that the June election would draw 50 million voters to polling stations.

However, Tajzadeh wrote, events in the Iranian month of Ordibehesht (21 April – 21 May) would put to the test the authorities’ claims of seeking a high voter turnout of 50 million in the election. He says the coming weeks will determine whether the vote will be “engineered” or free and fair.

“During this month, and after registration [for the elections], it will become clear whether the regime, in particular the leader [Ali Khamenei], will defend the most basic right of the nation, which is the people’s the right to determine their own destiny … or will they appear defeated in the face of this test?”

Should free and fair elections be held in June, Tajzadeh maintained, “it can lead to enthusiasm, hope and progress and mark a leap for resolving the country’s problems.”

Nevertheless, Tajzadeh added, if authorities fall short of ensuring free and fair elections, the crises in Iran’s domestic and foreign affairs would continue to reverberate and a feeling of despair will engulf the country.

“A 50-million-strong turnout requires that all those who are willing to operate within the boundaries of the constitution are approved [by the Guardian Council]. The Ahmadinejad camp also has the right to nominate its … candidate. The Guardian Council … does not have the right to bar [Ahmadinejad’s close aid Esfandiar Rahim] Mashaei [from the race].”

Tajzadeh served as deputy Interior Minister during Mohammad Khatami’s first term as president between 1997 and 2001. Two of the freest elections in Iran’s history—1998 for city councils around the country and the elections for the sixth Majlis in March 2000—were held while he was still in office.

The outspoken member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front was arrested one day after the fraudulent 2009 presidential election. He, along with fellow reformists, was paraded in televised show trials held just months later and was sentenced to six years in prison and a ten-year ban on journalistic and partisan activities. He never requested an appeal.

After nine months of imprisonment, four months of which he spent in solitary confinement, Tajzadeh was released temporarily.

His freedom would soon come to an end after he and six other leading reformist figures filed a lawsuit against several commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps for their extensive involvement in the widespread fraud that took place in the 2009 race. After his arrest, Tajzadeh was transferred to the quarantine ward of Evin Prison, where he is still being held. Since then, the veteran activist has been fasting to protest the illegal conditions of his detention.

While in prison, Tajzadeh has developed a number of health conditions including heart problems and kidney disease. He also suffers from blood pressure fluctuations.

Tajzadeh and members of his family maintain that his case is being overseen by the Supreme Leader’s son Mojtaba Khamenei. Tajzadeh’s son-in-law Ali Tabatabaei has said that Mojtaba Khamenei’s role in handling Tajzadeh’s case was the main reason for the lack of medical attention given to him.

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