TEHRAN: (Reuters): The following are brief portraits of the candidates who will compete to replace outgoing reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who is barred by law from running for a third consecutive term.
1- AKBAR HASHEMI RAFSANJANI
A mid-ranking cleric who has held most of the top positions in Iran”s political structure and is widely considered to be Iran”s second most powerful figure after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani, 70, was president from 1989 to 1997 and is a moderate conservative who favours closer ties
with the West and liberalisation of the state-heavy economy. He is credited with bringing the costly 1980-1988 war with Iraq to an end and masterminding covert arms-for-hostages deals with Washington in the 1980s. He now heads the Expediency Council —
a powerful arbitration body with legislative powers and leads opinion polls for the presidential vote.
2- MOHAMMAD BAQER QALIBAF
A former Revolutionary Guards commander who was appointed national police chief in 2000 and presents himself as a traditional, but independent, conservative candidate. Qalibaf,43, is credited with modernising and improving the severe image
of the police force and won praise for his tactful handling of pro-democracy student demonstrations in 2002 and 2003. A former military pilot, he keeps his skills fresh by piloting occasional commercial flights on domestic routes. Opinion polls put him
second behind Rafsanjani.
3- MEHDI KARROUBI
Parliament speaker from 2000 to 2004, this mid-ranking cleric and close ally of Khatami became a darling of the reform movement in 2002, when he threatened to close down the assembly unless a jailed reformist lawmaker was released. But Karroubi, 68, generally favours a less confrontational style and was heavily criticised for acquiescing to the mass disqualification of reformist candidates ahead of the 2004 parliamentary elections. Karroubi stood in that vote but failed to win a seat and is given little chance of winning the presidential race. If
elected, he has promised to give all Iranians over 18 a 500,000 Rials ($56) per month government stipend to alleviate poverty.
4- ALI LARIJANI
Head of Iran”s state broadcasting monopoly for 10 years until he stepped down last year and became a security adviser to Khamenei. Larijani, 48, is the scion of a powerful political clan, with brothers in senior positions in the judiciary and the Guardian Council. A mathematics graduate with a doctorate in philosophy, Larijani is a hardline conservative and former member of the Revolutionary Guards who has criticised Tehran”s
nuclear negotiations with the European Union as akin to swapping a "pearl for a candy bar." He was selected earlier this year as the official candidate of the main coalition of traditional
conservative parties but has little popular support.
5- MOHSEN REZAIE
A clandestine Islamic radical before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Rezaie, 51, was briefly imprisoned and spent time on the run from the Shah”s SAVAK secret police. He was one of the
founder members of the Revolutionary Guards, an
ideologically-driven branch of the military, which he commanded from 1981 to 1997. He has called for Iran”s nuclear case to be closed by the United Nations and warned the United States
against military adventurism in the Gulf. Running as an independent he has made little impression in opinion polls.
6- MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD
Elected mayor of the sprawling Iranian capital after a vote marred by record low turnout in 2003, Ahmadinejad, 49, is a leading member of a new generation of lay politicians fiercely loyal to Khamenei. A former special forces officer of the Revolutionary Guards, he was governor in the 1990s of the city of Ardebil, a religiously conservative town in Iran”s Azeri-speaking northwest. As Tehran mayor he has moved to close many cultural centres set up by reformists but also taken steps to improve Tehran”s traffic gridlock and repave roads.