Det viktige Vokterrådet er på valg i Iran. Det er det som velger Den øverste leder. En av kandidatene er ringreven Hashemi Rafsanjani. En annen er president Mahmoud Ahmadinejads åndelige veileder. De etablerte kreftene nærer en viss frykt for hva som vil skje hvis Ahmadinejads glødende tilhengere får for mye makt. For første gang har man også screenet de fanatisk troende.

His main rival is Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah- Yazdi, also 72, a radical fundamentalist who regularly rails against the West and is known by his detractors as «Ayatollah Crocodile». Temsah is the Farsi word for crocodile and a pun on Mesbah. A cartoonist was jailed after once daring to lampoon him as a crocodile shedding false tears in the face of a Western cultural invasion.

Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi has often spoken against democracy, arguing that ultimate authority to rule in Iran is based on God’s will, not the public’s. He once told Friday prayer worshippers: «If someone tells you he has a new interpretation of Islam, sock him in the mouth.»

He is regarded as the spiritual mentor of Mr Ahmadinejad, whose supporters already control most of Iran’s other main institutions.

The 86-member assembly keeps largely out of daily politics, but opponents of Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi fear he may use any gains to make the assembly more active in drafting state policy, to reduce the people’s influence on government and perhaps challenge Ayatollah Khamenei. Ayatollah Khamenei supports Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani, in an apparent attempt to balance the different factions in the assembly and curb the influence of the fundamentalists.

the Times