First Published: 2005-05-02

 
Iranian presidential race takes shape
 

one of several hardline contenders pulls out to strengthen anticipated battle against top cleric, Rafsanjani.

 

Middle East Online

By Stefan Smith - TEHRAN

Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997

Iran's presidential election race was taking shape on Monday, with one of several hardline contenders pulling out to strengthen an anticipated battle against top cleric and more moderate conservative Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In a statement carried by the Iranian press, right-wing MP Ahmad Tavakoli said his decision to stop campaigning ahead of the June 17 poll was made to "favour the designation of a single candidate" representing the right-wing.

He also cited the need to "avert the danger" of a continuation of "the process of the past 16 years" - a clear reference to Rafsanjani who served as president from 1989 to 1997.

Incumbent President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who was first elected in 1997, cannot stand again because the constitution bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms in office.

Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative and still one of Iran's most powerful figures, has already clearly signalled that he will attempt a comeback in next month's election.

His presidential bid is expected to benefit from divisions within the ultra-conservative camp, which even with the withdrawal of Tavakoli has so far not managed to rally around a single figure.

With reformers lacking a strong candidate, analysts say Rafsanjani could also count on the backing of moderates hoping to stem a hardline takeover - while at the same time holding the support of centrists and traditional conservatives.

Iran's main conservative alliance, the Council for Coordinating Forces in the Islamic Revolution (CCFIR), has chosen the hardline former state television boss Ali Larijani - now an advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - as its candidate.

But two of his rivals, populist ex-police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai, have refused to pull out. In addition, Tehran's mayor Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad is also believed to be considering joining the race.

Speaking to AFP, Qalibaf said he believed he was still "the most serious rival for Mr Rafsanjani" - a view that appears to be backed up by informal opinion polls.

Another conservative candidate, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, is seen as being closer to Rafsanjani and may pull out in his favour, analysts said.

Presidential candidates are subject to approval by the Guardians Council, an unelected body controlled by hardliners. It was the council which blacklisted nearly all reformist candidates ahead of the February 2004 parliamentary elections.

The Council could block the main reformist candidate, former higher education minister Mustafa Moin.

Rafsanjani currently heads the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body, and is it is seen as unlikely he will be rejected.

After months of talking about a possible new bid for the presidency, he last week sent out clear signals that he is all-but certain to stand - but then stated that he has yet to make a final decision.

Prospective candidates must register their intention to stand between May 10 and 14, after which the Guardian Council's screening process begins. A final list of contenders is expected later in May.

 

Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe