Reformist Journalist: Hardliners Working to Sabotage Rouhani Campaign With Intimidation Tactics
By preventing speeches in favor of President Hassan Rouhani and blocking his campaigners from reaching voters, hardliners are trying to weaken the incumbent president ahead of the May 19, 2017 election, a reformist journalist told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI)
“The attacks on Mr. Rouhani’s government and his campaign have common roots,” said Mohammad Sadegh Javadi-Hessar, a senior member of the reformist Etemad Melli (National Trust) Party. “It’s obvious that his opponents want to use every means to create tension and reduce the effectiveness of his campaign offices.”
On May 4, Rouhani’s campaign manager Mohammad Ali Vakili confirmed that several campaign offices throughout the country were suddenly forced to close or were temporarily blocked. A number of campaign staff have also received judicial summons.
“There’s no doubt that actions that raise the security level will reduce the people’s fervor and their participation in the elections, which is against the wishes of the supreme leader,” said Javadi-Hessar.
In recent weeks, hardline conservatives have prevented speeches by Rouhani supporters including by Vice President for Legal Affairs Majid Ansari, former member of Parliament Faezeh Hashemi, and the former mayor of Tehran, Gholamhossein Karbaschi.
“The intention is clear,” Javadi-Hessar, who works as a journalist in the city of Mashhad, told CHRI. “Mr. Rouhani’s opponents don’t want his campaign to have the necessary cohesion to promote his message.”
“When people hear that campaign offices are being closed, it hits their confidence and discourages them from openly working for him,” he added.
Javadi-Hessar also told CHRI that the order to close the headquarters of reformist candidates in Mashhad on May 2 was rescinded two days later.
“The authorities had shut down the campaign headquarters (in Mashhad) because they objected to the displays of posters of (former reformist president Mohammad) Khatami (1997-2005),” he said. “But when the campaign’s legal experts stepped in and explained what had happened, the issue was resolved and the headquarters were reopened.”
After televised presidential debates on April 28 and May 5, security forces blocked off Rouhani’s campaign office in the Gheytarieh district of North Tehran and prevented staff from campaigning for several hours.
“Several people, some wearing police uniforms and others in civilian clothes, prevented us from leaving the building after the (second presidential) debate and would not allow us to go out into the city and campaign,” a source, who asked not to be identified, told the CHRI on May 5.