Kurds & the presidential elections in Iran

By Momen Zellmi: Kurdistan Tribune – 20.5.2013 – The eleventh election of the President of Iran is scheduled to be held on Friday, 14 June 2013.

If no presidential candidate polls 50 percent of the vote in the first round, a runoff will be held on 21 June. This will elect the seventh President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

From the moment of the announcing of candidates, some Kurdish parties which are in opposition to the Islamic Republic announced that they will boycott the elections. Meanwhile the president of United Kurds in Iran has argued that a boycott isn’t in the interests of the Kurdish people.

This election is most important for the Iranian people, and especially for reform organizations in Iran, and some political analysts believed that voters can begin to change Iran in stages because  this vote on 14 June will be the first presidential election since 2009, when protests against the official results caused an uprising by the Green movement led by Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi,

That was followed by months of unrest and a harsh crackdown on demonstrators, journalists and political activists. One of the main things Kurds want is to root out the discrimination between Persians and Kurds in various fields of government.

Registration for candidates took place from 7 May and concluded on 11 May 2013, After the registration stage, registered candidates must be qualified by the Guardian Council in order to be on the ballot.  On May 7, Sadeq Vaez Zadeh was the first candidate who officially registered. After the registration phase, the Guardian Council is supposed to review candidates’ qualifications and announce a list of approved candidates within five days. However, that deadline was extended by three days by the Guardian Council.Two Kurdish activists succeeded in putting their names forward for the next president of Iran, namely Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, one of several vice presidents, and Iraj Isterki.. Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, a former governor and now one of several vice presidents, who was born in 1949 of an Azeri father and Kurdish mother in the village of Serishabad in Iran’s Kurdistan province, managed to register his name; while Iraj Isterki, who hails from the south and makes his living as a real estate agent in Tehran, also got his name in, just before Saturday’s deadline for registration.

Generally Kurdish activists believed that Rahimi, who was the governor of Sanandaj and is now a vice president, has done nothing for the Kurds. From another direction, Sardar Pishdari, an Iranian Kurd who currently lives in Britain, said he missed the deadline and a chance to throw his hat into the presidential ring.

Under Iranian law, the president is limited to two consecutive terms which total eight years only. The vote in June will mark an end to Ahmadinejad’s time in office.  Following Khomeini’s death in 1989, Khamenei was appointed by the council of experts as the supreme leader. Since he took power, Iran has had three presidents, all serving two consecutive terms: the moderate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the reformist Mohammad Khatami and the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Some sources from Kurdistan cities in Iran have published that members of the Community Advocacy and Reform of Iran – Da’wa and Eslah (a Sunni political party led by Abdurrahman Pirani) and the Council of Maktab Quran (a Kurdish-Sunni organization which was led by Ahmad Moftizadeh but is now led by an elected council) have asked their people to participate in the elections.

Also recently, Rojhalattimes, a Kurdish media outlet, reported that Mohsen Rezaii, the secretary of the Expediency Council, and one of the candidates seeking to get Kurdish votes, has visited Kurdish cities and talked with people there. Apparently he has promised that, if he wins and becomes the president of Iran, he will end the discrimination between ethnic groups in Iran. “There is nothing between Baneh and Tehran”, he said. There will be a three-week campaign period after the candidates are announced on 23 May, before the election on 14 June. The minimum voting age in Iran is 18. If a simple majority is not achieved in the first round, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a run-off vote. The results will be announced under the supervision of an administrative council of the interior ministry. More than 680 candidates, including at least a dozen women, have signed up to run in this year’s presidential election but only around a dozen are considered as leading contenders. Politicians from the country’s major rival camps have entered the race and the battle will be between conservative “pricelists”, reformists, independents and government affiliates.

Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei – Ahmadinejad’s close ally – have both registered. Rafsanjani is likely to win the support of the country’s reformers. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, who is seen as the supreme leader’s favourite candidate, is also standing. Other figures who have put their names forward include Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, a conservative, who has formed a coalition with two politicians with similar allegiances, the former parliamentary speaker Gholamali Haddadadel and Khamenei’s top adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati.

Some of the Kurdish members of the Iranian Parliament have decided that, in order for them to support any candidate, they have pre-conditions which would mean a solution to the Kurdish issue in Iran.

Kurds have 18 out of 290 members of the Iran Parliament (Shwra). Salar Muradi, a Kurdish parliamentarian told Rudaw :” We are seeing that this election is an opportunity to get Kurdish rights and, if any candidate has solution to Kurdish issues, we will support them”. Kurdish political parties and organizations in Iran until now don’t have a common view about the presidential elections. The leader of United Kurds in Iran has said that a boycott isn’t in the interests of Kurdish people.  Dr. Rahim Farahmand, in his most recent interview with ‘Civil’ magazine, announced: “I’m not supporting the wave of angriness and I feel that boycotting is not good, as I think we should all participate in this election and challenge. But we should have our own wants and strategy; this is why we must try for success. We must vote for someone that will achieve the demands of the majority of our people”.

“Boycott isn’t in the interest of Kurds in this time, we should participate and have our program, we should work hard to success”, he added.

What is the future for Kurds in Iran? How will the next president of Iran deal with the issue of Kurdish rights? These are questions which should get answers after the election.

Momen Zellmi is a Kurdish journalist (born in ‌Hawraman, South Kurdistan in 1985), who is currently studying  M.A . English Literature  in India. He has been writing for leading Kurdish media outlets since 2001. Currently he is Editor in Chief of KomalNews Agency which is publishing from South of Kurdistan in five languages.