Old differences between Iranian supreme religious leader and presidential candidate not to impact election results

Politics Materials 9 April 2009 17:47 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 9 / Trend , D. Ibrahimova/ Iran's Supreme Religious Leader Ali Khamenei's strong influence on country's policy and differences between religious leader and presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi will not impact possibility of latter's victory in the elections.

"Khamenei is supreme political force in Iran. Any change in Iran's policy [...] in the long run must be approved by him," Georgetown University professor Woll told Trend via email.

Presidential candidate from reformists Mir Hussein Moussavi said at a press conference on April 6 that he plans to meet with supreme leader Khamenei soon. Moussavi was Prime Minister during Khamenei's presidency. The two politicians had frequent dispute over political issues.

Iran will hold presidential elections on June 12, 2009. Two reformists - Mehdi Karrubi and Mir Hussein Moussavi will run for presidency. Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet confirmed his participation in the elections.

Experts disagree over the statement that Iran's supreme leader has "strong influence" both on domestic and foreign policy of the country which makes him one of the major political forces in Tehran.

Ali Khamenei, who became supreme leader in 1989, was president from 1981 to 1989. He controls all major powers: courts, army and media. He appoints head of the judicial system, state radio and television.

He also controls the Guardian Council which composes 12 members appointed directly or indirectly by Khamenei. He has a right to veto parliament's decision and test trustworthiness of candidates during elections, according to the report by Carnegie Endowment expert on Iran Karim Sadjadpour.

Powers of supreme religious leader were extended after the amendments made to the Constitution in 1989. According to article 110, the religious leader also determines Iranian government's policy. Post of Prime Minister was canceled.

French expert of Iranian origin Mohsen Sazegara said Iranian government has historically attempted to launch talks with the U.S. several times. But these attempts were suppressed by religious leaders.

The first attempt took place when Hashemi Rafsanjani was speaker of the Iranian parliament, however religious leader Imam Khomeini halted talks. Iranian President Muhammad Hatami who held office from 1997 to 2005, also sought to establish ties with Washington, however Ali Khamenei was against.

Despite Khamenei's influence and difference between religious leader and Moussavi, experts say the religious leader is less likely to be against Moussavi's presidency.

Khamenei and Moussavi had differences when Iranian Constitution was not amended, Iranian expert on domestic policy issues Ahmed Zeidabadi told Trend .

"The previous Constitution stipulated posts of president and prime minister. But powers between them were not divided in detail. Therefore president and prime minister tried to expand their sphere of influence," Center for Strengthening Iran's Unity chairman Zeidabadi told Trend over telephone. Now Khamenei is less likely to oppose Moussavi's presidency as their views have become closer, he said.

Both politicians support peaceful way of resolution of nuclear program, want to cooperate within the Middle East without Israel and share common views on economic policy.

Iranian officials argue Iran develops nuclear program for peaceful purposes. However West is suspicious about nuclear program's peaceful purpose. Iran's nuclear program has caused disputes between sides on numerous occasions. The UN Security Council has imposed economic sanctions on Iran to halt its nuclear program.

In addition to common views, the religious leader does not have a right to support any candidate under the Constitution as he admits.

Zeidabadi said if religious leader supports any of the candidates, it would be unreasonable to hold elections because bodies who organize elections and individuals would create conditions so that the candidate favored by religious leader will win.

However Germany-based expert of Iranian origin Mehran Barati said Khamenei will not support any of the candidates only until some time. "If Ahmadinejad runs for presidency, Khamenei will wait and see future balance of powers following the first round of presidential elections. Later he will determine whom to support," expert on international issues Barati told Trend over telephone.

T. Jafarov contributed to the article.

Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at [email protected]