Highlights in the Iranian Press (February 17-22)

Highlights in the Iranian Press (February 17-22)
Elections for the Islamic Consultative Assembly and the Assembly of Experts in Iran are scheduled to take place on Friday, March 1.
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Elections for the Islamic Consultative Assembly and the Assembly of Experts in Iran are scheduled to take place on Friday, March 1. As the election date approaches, the election agenda heats up. While the lists of groups entering the election are being finalized, the emphasis on participation in the Iranian press continues unabated. The focus on participation has reached such a point that almost every topic in newspapers is associated with participation. Apart from all this agenda, a major fraud case has also found its place in the agenda.

Increase in Emphasis on Participation and the "Enemy" Theme

In Iran, the issue of participation has been on the agenda in some way throughout the year. As the election agenda approached, it left all kinds of agendas behind and rose to the top spot. While topics such as the Yemen issue, which had a lot of news entries almost every day, and situation in Palestine were losing their heat, the election agenda settled at the top spot in the last two weeks. So much so that the celebrations of the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution were also shared by associating them with participation. The said emphasis on participation has also been made a topic by regime opponents. Calls against participation are being made by these groups, especially on social media platforms and various channels. Considering that there are those among the reformists who call for a boycott, it is a matter of curiosity what course the established order, which wants to preclude discussions of legitimacy, will take in case of low participation.

To prevent such a situation, almost every front, from the Supreme Leader to the Iranian press, is looking for ways to increase participation. News is therefore coming out in this context. Hamshahri newspaper, in its news titled "Transformation of 'Economic Diplomacy' with the Vote of the People," stated that "the lie that the people's vote is ineffective is debunked by the successes achieved in the field of economic diplomacy." The emphasis that not participating in the elections is the desire of the country’s “enemies” and that voting is necessary to thwart this desire is also a frequently addressed theme. In the same news from Hamshahri, it is stated that "While the country's political atmosphere is imbued with the election atmosphere, some media organizations and enemy currents are trying to show that 'voting does not change anything' by darkening the country's current political-economic processes. However, the successes achieved in the field of economic diplomacy over more than the last two years refute such manipulations." Similarly, Sadullah Zarei, in an article written to Kayhan newspaper, drew attention to this situation and said, "Under the current conditions, chaos can be imagined in two ways: confusing the stage to make the voter see voting as meaningless and creating distrust against currents or individuals seen effective by the people. The enemy's effort to show that voting is futile is a known issue."

Jam-e Jam, with the headline "Radicals Against the Republic," dedicated a full page to its news and scrutinized the "enemy's calculations" from A to Z. The analysis included criticisms from the reformist side, specifically the Reform Front, and almost positioned the Reform Front as the enemy of the regime. The article, which contains many implications, concludes with a cautious language, stating, "Undoubtedly, reformists who call for a boycott of the elections and do not participate will leave a void that will lead to the emergence of inexperienced or malicious elements that will harm national interests and overall Iranian interests. The majority opinion of the reformists is that if the irregular behaviors of the radicals are not controlled, the left wing will start chasing interests."

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also emphasized participation in East Azerbaijan. Jam-e Jam newspaper carried Khamenei's words, "Firstly, participation; secondly, choosing the most suitable candidate," to its headline and referred to Khamenei's speech over the enemy theme, stating, "He highlighted that the unity of the Iranian nation was the secret of the victory of the Islamic Revolution and its continuation, emphasizing that different political and taste differences should not be effective against enemies in national unity in the future."

Sequentially Published Interviews

On the eve of the elections, interviews with many names are being featured in various newspapers every day. From former Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri to Gholamali Rajaee, a former advisor to Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, many reformist figures have been among those interviewed. Speaking to Arman-e Melli, Rajaee addressed the difficulties behind the one-dimensional nature of the elections and the exclusion of political currents from the election atmosphere due to vetoes. Rajaee stated about the vetoes, "This is a decision taken for the election atmosphere to proceed unilaterally, and there is a strategy behind it. Do you think the rejection of the candidacies of all important reformist figures is a coincidence? Definitely not. There is a thought behind it. Seeing people's money lose value overnight is against human rights and should be considered. The situation is such that the purchasing power of the people is decreasing day by day, and living conditions are becoming harder for the people. This is happening during one of the most difficult economic periods Iran is going through." Rajaee, while criticizing systemic issues in Iran, compared it to Qatar, saying, "A country like Qatar, not even as big as our Karaj, is hosting the World Cup and has become the Asian champion twice. Yet, we still haven't been able to repair the second floor of Azadi Stadium. Isn't it sad that Iran is in this situation compared to countries like Qatar?"

Jahangiri also spoke to Etemad newspaper. Addressing the difficulties facing the reformists, Jahangiri emphasized the importance of increasing dialogue capacity to establish more effective communication with the government and society. Moreover, according to Jahangiri, this approach is a fundamental strategy that will help reformists overcome current and future challenges. On the other hand, Jahangiri's statement reflects the differences of opinion among the reformists that can no longer be hidden. As members of the Reform Front and NGOs and parties announced in many cities that they do not have candidates and will not support any list. Moderate reformists, on the other hand, are taking a stand against this attitude, and newspapers close to the moderates are targeting the Reform Front.

Emphasis on Democracy Festival

Certainly, the established order had anticipated criticisms that "important names of the reformists will be vetoed in the elections and it will be a one-sided election" before engaging in election engineering. Granting approval for many candidates to enter the election was one way to preempt these criticisms. This issue is addressed in this way in the Iranian press, and the theme that the elections are truly a "festival of democracy" is being addressed.

Kayhan newspaper, in its news titled "Lists Closing and Competition Heating Up 12 Days Before the Elections," said, "With an unprecedented record, 15,000 people received eligibility approval from the Guardian Council for the Assembly elections. The country's political currents are in the final stages of finalizing the election lists." The news continued to highlight that in Tehran, 100 people are competing for one seat, an approval rate of 68% was achieved, and 103 parties and 20 alliances will enter the elections. The news, which included statements from Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, stated, "About 1,100 academics with professor titles, 250 doctors, 1,700 educators, about 400 judges and lawyers, and 1,700 women; constitute part of these 15,000 people." Another interview published in Jam-e Jam claimed that the reformists have lost their base over time.

Javan Online published a news titled "Final Number of Assembly Election Candidates Exceeds 15,200." The news, which featured statements from High Election Council Spokesperson Hadi Tahan Nazif, quoted from Fars News Agency, stating, "As a result of the evaluations made in this period, more than 15,200 candidates were approved by the High Election Council and Control Committees. About 75% of the candidates for the Islamic Consultative Assembly were approved by the High Election Council, which is a significant rate recorded in the elections held in the Islamic Republic so far."

Analysis on Turkey's Foreign Policy Moves

Aftab-e Yazd published an analysis titled "Erdogan Shaking Hands with Iran, Establishing Warm Contacts with Saudi Arabia." The analysis by Reza Bardestani stated, "Examinations of news from Turkey show that this country has covered significant ground on the path to becoming a regional and international power in politics, economy, and tourism, especially increasing its distance from regional countries like Iran day by day." The analysis included international and Turkish media analyses and touched on various topics from Turkey's normalization with Egypt to its trade volume.