Hardliners in Iran including civilian and military officials have been observed in recent weeks trying to win hearts and minds by appeasing the underprivileged segments of the population, pledging their support for the people in the face of economic hardships, and showcasing what they have been doing to improve the situation.
Some have even gone out of their way taking the extra mile to respond to calls for respect for human rights and trying to alleviate unfair pressures on politically active parts of the population such as workers and human rights activists.
All this coincide with a major event in Iran and upheavals in the region which can potentially spread to Iran.
First, an election is around the corner in February and conservatives are hoping to win majority in the Iranian Parliament. A conservative victory in the election will lend legitimacy to Iran's conservative dominated political system, but to make this possible, hardliners need the people's vote and this justifies the frequent gestures of appeasement in recent weeks.
Second, protests and socio-political upheavals have been sweeping since early October across the region in Iraq and Lebanon. Many analysts as well as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have expressed concern over the possibility of protests spilling over into Iran although they have often blamed regional and international powers for what they say are attempts to instigate unrest in Iran.
Both the upcoming elections and the regional upheaval call for better ties between Iran's ruling conservatives and the nation as a way of ensuring the political system's survival. This is what justifies the elaborate attempts to win the people's hearts and minds.
The Iranian Judiciary has started a major clampdown on financial corruption and several cases are being investigated in courts. In one of the latest cases, the Prosecutor-General of the Islamic Republic announced on October 31, that the judiciary has dismissed five to six "corrupt judges," and stressed that the "battle" against "fraudulence" continues.
Meanwhile Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi (Raeisi) has been paying special attention to the problems of workers and small businesses. On October 31, he paid a visit to the Bazaar in Tabriz and talked with businessmen and shoemakers. He also visited the famous Machinery Manufacturing Factory in the city, where he discussed the workers' problems with the board of directors and called for boosting employment and continued production, and addressed problems regarding the factory's privatization.
Other Judiciary officials have also been visiting small towns, in Ahar, Arasbaran area talking with the people about their continuous campaign against corruption.
In another development, several labor union and human rights activists and journalists were freed from jail after Raeesi called for thorough investigation of their cases. A prominent labor activist and leader Esmail Bakhshi was released on 30 October from prison in Iran on bail after ten months of incarceration following strikes and protests last year in the factory where he worked. Bakhshi was the representative of workers at the Haft Tapeh Sugar Mill in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, where workers began strikes last November in protest for their unpaid wages and other demands.
Meanwhile, IRGC Commander in Chief Major General Hossein Salami has been visiting villages and rural development sites for some time now according to numerous reports. State-run Al-Alam TV reported on Thursday 31 October that during a visit to a rural development site in Jaroo village in Alborz province he said that the IRGC has 1,200 projects to develop underprivileged villages.
Salami said that he was himself born in a village, so he understands the villagers, Al-Alam TV reported. He also visited several development projects carried out by the IRGC-linked militia, the Basij, reported Tasnim News agency.
A week earlier, Salami had talked about 1,125 development projects carried out by the IRGC in the province of Kohkiloyeh and Boyer Ahmad.
While all these and other evidence can be part of genuine efforts to bring about an improvement in the situation of those hit by corruption, discrimination, unfair trials and mismanagement on the part of the Rouhani administration, the active involvement by the conservative-led Judiciary and IRGC, and their timing with the upcoming elections and the threat of spill-over from regional upheavals are undeniable.