Ali Akhbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani


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(b. Rafsanjan, 25 Aug. 1934)

Iranian; Speaker of the Majles (Consultative Assembly) 1980–9, Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces 1988–9, President 1989–1997 Rafsanjani became a pupil and disciple of Khomeini at Qom theological seminary, reaching the rank of Hojjatoleslam in the late 1950s. He organized anti-Shah riots in June 1963 and was imprisoned at least four times for his political activities in the Islamic resurgence between 1964 and 1978. Rafsanjani was one of Khomeini's chief lieutenants in Iran after his banishment in 1964 and a member of the small group of radical mullahs who led the Islamic revolution in Iran until Khomeini's return in 1979. He was then appointed to the governing Revolutionary Council by Khomeini. Rafsanjani co-founded the Association of Militant Clergy faction and was co-leader of the Islamic Republican party which dominated the Assembly after the general elections of 1980 and elected him as its Speaker. In that capacity he entered into secret negotiations to trade Western hostages for US arms in 1986, but succeeded in avoiding lasting damage to his reputation when the negotiations became public knowledge. After Khomeini's death in 1989, Rafsanjani emerged as the Islamic Republic's first executive President, to which he was re-elected for a final, four-year term in 1993.

During his presidency, Iran underwent widespread and fundamental reforms that have reconstituted it as a Second Republic. Among the more important of these was a programme of economic reconstruction through liberalization and the state's withdrawal from the economy. A corresponding shift in foreign policy, aimed at Iran's reintegration into the international community, began with the release of Western hostages in Lebanon at Rafsanjani's behest between 1991 and 1992. Rafsanjani's Iran, however, continued to export Islamic revolution and it sponsored militant Islamic fundamentalist groups on a worldwide basis.

Rafsanjani stood down at the end of his second term, as constitutionally a President can only serve for two consecutive periods. His successor was Mohammad Khatami, who was more liberal than Rafsanjani and whose victory heralded a period of modernization for the country. Rafsanjani retained his position on the Committee to Determine the Expediency of the Islamic Order, which rules on disputes between the Council of Guardians and the Majles. In 2000 he stood in the Majles elections for Tehran. The city elects thirty representatives and it appeared that Rafsanjani just scraped in as the thirtieth candidate, with liberal candidates taking all the other seats. The Council of Guardians ordered a recount, and Rafsanjani rose to a less humiliating twentieth in the poll. However, Rafsanjani felt that the whole process had not enhanced his standing, and he resigned his seat before the Majles met. In 2005 he decided to stand again in the presidential elections and achieved most votes in the first round of voting. However, in the run-off against Ahmadinejad, he suffered a major defeat with Ahmadinejad gaining 62 per cent of the vote. Rafsanjani was seem as more liberal than Ahmadinejad and too much a part of the establishment, an establishment he had grown rich with. With the election of Ahmadinejad, Iran moved to a more conservative position, reflecting the opinions of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and Rafsanjani was now seen as liberal in his views. In 2006 Rafsanjani was elected for Tehran to the Assembly of Experts (a body which has shown little power, but which does select a new Supreme Leader), and in 2007 he became its leader, defeating Ahmadinejad's preferred candidate. He has been increasingly critical of Ahmadinejad, querying how it is possible for such a fuel-rich country to be suffering energy shortages and, in the run-up to the 2009 presidential elections, he was a potential kingmaker in terms of the selection of a liberal candidate to stand against Ahmadinejad, at a time when the country is facing severe economic problems.


Subjects: Politics.

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