Rafsanjani organises election win

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Rafsanjani organises election win

By Sean Malloy

Elections held on April 10 in Iran have boosted President Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's project to reorient the Iranian economy towards the west. Rafsanjani is a leader of the Society of Combatant Clergymen, a faction whose economic program includes accepting foreign loans, changing state controls on the market and inviting back exiles who fled after the 1979 revolution.

These changes are intended to create better conditions for foreign investment, to win the confidence of rich merchants and to regain capital taken from the country after the revolution. Rafsanjani's course is motivated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iranian state's inability to develop an independent economy.

Opposition within the regime has come from members of the majlis (parliament) loyal to the late Ayatollah Khomeini's commitment to an economically independent Iran. But Rafsanjani has used the undemocratic structures of the Iranian state to reduce the number of majlis members opposing the reforms.

While all Iranians over the age of 15 can vote in elections to the 270-seat majlis, since last year candidates must be screened by a Council of Guardians, consisting of six clerics and six lawyers, who also decide whether laws passed by the majlis are consistent with Islamic law.

Clerical members of the Council of Guardians are appointed by the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an ally of Rafsanjani. The council has excluded many oppositionists from the elections.

In late 1990, Rafsanjani also imposed a religious test for the Assembly of Experts, the body that elects the country's spiritual leader. Three prominent oppositionists have so far failed the exam.

Organisations ranging in outlook from progressive Islamic to secular Marxist are still suppressed. National and ethnic minorities, including the Kurds, also continue to face repression.