Tehran turmoil upstages election

Although Iran elects its third president Oct. 2, there are few signs that the country's internecine battle for power will subside, Monitor contributor T. Elaine Carey reports.

Pitched street battles between Revolutionary Guards and Mujahideen-e Khalq guerrillas, and weekly -- if not daily -- executions of government opponents, have preempted political debates and campaigning.

The lack of public interest in the election appears due to the fact that the outcome -- for all practical purposes -- has been predetermined by the regime. The election -- similar to that of the late President, Muhammad Ali Rajai, who died in an explosion Aug. 30 -- is just a formality.

The most likely winner among the five candidates approved by the Guardian Council is Hojatolislam Ali Khameini, who is one of the three surviving founders of the Islamic Republican Party and the first clergyman to run for the presidency since the Islamic revolution.

Despite mass executions -- including those Monday of 110 leftwing militants rounded up in heavy weekend street fighting in Tehran -- and retaliation by the Mujahideen opposition, which has killed nearly 100 fundamentalist leaders since June, the clergy-dominated government shows no signs of loosing its grip. Observers do not anticipate that happening until Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini leaves the scene. The internal turmoil, they say, has not wiped out the allegiance of the ordinary Iranian to the Ayatollah. Poor and lower-class Iranians still appear to feel he has done more for them than the late Shah.

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