London – Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi announced on Monday his support for President Hassan Rouhani, who is running for a second presidential term in next Friday’s election.
Karoubi and another reformist leader Mirhossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been under house arrest since February 2011 after they protested against the results of the 2009 presidential elections in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected for a second term.
The website “Saham News,” which is close to Karoubi, reported on Monday that during a meeting with his family members on Sunday, the reformist opposition leader recommended supporting Rouhani during this week’s race, adding that “this election is a real confrontation between a real Islamic Republic and a ceremonial one.”
Meanwhile, in a heavyweight surprise, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf withdrew on Monday from the presidential race in favor of former Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raisi, who welcomed his decision and considered the step as “revolutionary.”
The withdrawal of Qalibaf is expected to enhance the chances of the two conservative candidates, Raisi and Mostafa Mirsalim in confronting Rouhani, who is supported by the coalition of moderates and reformists.
According to the latest polls, Rouhani is shown in the lead in the run-up to the May 19 election.
Rouhani, in a speech on Monday, told supporters he needed a strong mandate to push for political freedoms and the release of opposition leaders.
Qalibaf and Raisi are supported by a coalition of conservatives called the “Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces.”
On Monday, Tasnim news agency quoted a source from the conservative coalition as saying that Qalibaf’s electoral campaign would continue to work in support of Raisi until the end of the elections.
Separately, head of Iran’s judicial system Sadeq Larijani criticized some presidential candidates for distorting the image of the regime’s legal apparatus during their presidential campaigns, saying that some candidates are acting as if they oppose the regime.