Amid the launch of the “No to these 5” (hard-liners on Jannati’s ticket) campaign on social media, prominent dissident Akbar Ganji and BBC Persian separately published articles that examined and analyzed this strategy to sideline hard-liners. Hard-liners were quick to seize on the latter as an opportunity to hit back at Rafsanjani, thereby undermining the “No to these 5” campaign.
Hard-liners subsequently started branding the “No to these 5” campaign — as well as Rafsanjani and leading members of his list — as “English” and directed by the BBC. In this vein, the hard-line Vatan-e Emrooz newspaper wrote, “The plans for preventing Ayatollah Jannati, Yazdi and Mesbah [Yazdi] from getting into the assembly are being managed by the BBC.
The formulas of this British channel and its staff for not allowing these clerics to get into the assembly signal their long-term plans.” Vatan-e Emrooz added, “They are seeking to create a new makeup in the Assembly of Experts, one which gives Rafsanjani the upper hand.” Moreover, the hard-line daily published a picture of the five hard-line ayatollahs and deemed them “anti-British.”
Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian military, has also harshly reacted to this controversy, saying, “If those who are being supported by Britain and the United States do not condemn these two countries’ meddling in Iran’s elections, they are considered [tried and] convicted.”
Khatami, the interim Tehran Friday prayer leader who is targeted by the campaign, has also spoken out. “British and foreign media outlets are asking our people not to vote for Jannati, Yazdi, Mesbah [Yazdi], Alamolhoda and I. This is none of your business; you nosy people should know that these five are the top choices of our people,” Khatami asserted, adding, “My sin is that I have given the seditionists a hard time during my Friday sermons.”