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Ahmadinejad Challenges The Ruling System, Calls for Free Elections

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. File photo

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned the Supreme Leader that that the ruling system in the Islamic Republic has lost its legitimacy and said its leaders should be replaced through free and fair elections.

In a text published February 25 on “Dolat-i Bahar” (The Government of Spring), a website that supports Ahmadinejad, he expanded on what he had earlier suggested in an open letter to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He called on Khamenei to dismiss the head of judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, and hold free presidential and

“In the current situation, keeping the heads of the three powers of the regime (executive, judiciary, and legislative branches) in their positions is facing big challenges that need to be tackled.”

Directly addressing the heads of the three branches of power and their supporters Ahmadinejad asked “Is there any better way to tackle the current challenges than referring to the popular vote and holding new elections? Or perhaps they believe that they should remain in power at any cost and the people and the country should endure them until their terms are over?”

In addition to free elections, Ahmadinejad also demanded “fundamental reforms” in the three branches of government, as well as the office of the Supreme Leader, but did not elaborate on what sort of reforms he had in mind.

The former president’s explicit criticism of the ruling system has been widely circulated in social media.

Ahmadinejad’s controversial reelection as president in 2009 lead to massive protests known as the Green Revolution. His main challengers in that election, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest since 2011 for describing his reelection as “engineered” and “rigged.”

In his letter to Khamenei, Ahmadinejad further insisted that free elections should be held without any interference from the Guardian Council, a powerful 12-member body that has the constitutional authority to disqualify anyone running for president or a seat in parliament. He also said the Supreme Leader should forbid the military institutions, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from interfering in the electoral process.

“An essential necessity is the holding of immediate and free elections for the presidency and the parliament, of course without the engineering of the Guardian Council and interference of military and security institutions, so the people have the right to choose,” the vociferous former president wrote to Khamenei.

In addition to the accusations from his challengers in the 2009 elections, Ahmadinejad has been repeatedly criticized by his mainly reformist opponents as a president who came to power through the intervention of the Supreme Leader, IRGC influence, and vote rigging.

Nevertheless, Ahmadinejad maintained, “One of the internationally recognized ways of meeting the people’s demands is either the resignation of the managers, whose performance has been unsatisfactory, or the holding early elections.”

Ahmadinejad’s headline-grabbing comments have elicited derisive responses even from his former allies.

The hardline conservative daily Kayhan, which was a staunch supporter of Ahmadinejad during his two-term presidency wrote, “Are those who say everybody should resign and let us to control everything again unaware of the fact that people laugh at them?”

The outspoken deputy parliament speaker and MP from Tehran, Ali Motahari, remarked, “Calling for free parliamentary and presidential election without the Guardian Council and military interference means that recent elections, particularly the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections (Ahmadinejad’s two terms), were rigged and engineered.”

Meanwhile, Motahari has challenged Ahmadinejad by asking him why he kept silent while he was in power.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has so far not responded directly to Ahmadinejad’s comments, though he has implicitly admonished him in speeches on at least two occasions.

Political analysts inside Iran are unsure how to account for why the former president seems to have suddenly turned on a system that supported him while he was in power.