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.

 

Two Danes stabbed by man shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Gabon

UN considers rejecting Trump Jerusalem decision

Israeli air traffic halted due to strikes

Iran's schools suffocate in smog

Christmas in Jordan dimmed by Jerusalem crisis

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’

Tunisia elections delayed

Istanbul summit strong on the rhetoric, weak on concrete steps

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

Palestinians call for protests against Pence Jerusalem visit

Palestinian billionaire detained in Saudi Arabia

Egypt opens Rafah crossing for four days

Turkey court releases 7 suspects in New Year attack trial

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison