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Hashemi Rafsanjani still considering whether to remain a candidate - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The front pages of the Sunday edition of Iranian newspapers, published with pictures of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a hopeful for the upcoming presidential election, are seen on Sunday, May 12, 2013. Rafsanjani made a last-minute surprise decision on Saturday to enter Iran's presidential election process. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The front pages of the Sunday edition of Iranian newspapers, published with pictures of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a hopeful for the upcoming presidential election, are seen on Sunday, May 12, 2013. Rafsanjani made a last-minute surprise decision on Saturday to enter Iran’s presidential election process. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Hassan Rouhani has stated that either he or Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will “withdraw [from Iran’s presidential race] in favor of the other,” according to the FARS news agency. The announcement came in a pre-campaign meeting in the northwestern city of Zanjan on Wednesday.

Hashemi Rafsanjani and Rouhani both enjoy support among the reformists and some sections of moderate conservatives. Rouhani’s decision not to withdraw has raised the possibility of an agreement between him and Hashemi Rafsanjani over which of the two will run, so as not to split the non-principalist vote.

After Hashemi Rafsanjani’s surprise registration on Saturday, many assumed that Hassan Rouhani would withdraw and support Hashemi Rafsanjani, following Seyyed Mohammed Khatami’s endorsement of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s candidacy.

Inconsistent reports came from Tehran, however, regarding whom Hashemi Rafsanjani has appointed as his campaign managers. There has been no sign thus far that the former president has started his campaign.

Political commentator Abbas Abdi has said that he regards Hashemi Rafsanjani’s entry into the race as a temporary tactic aimed at maintaining his political influence. In an interview with the Fara-Ru website on Sunday, he said: “Rafsanjani will not remain a candidate, and will withdraw if Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei gets disqualified.”

Abdi continued, saying, “The fact that Rafsanjani’s registration at the Interior Ministry was simultaneous with that of Mashaei is a clear sign that he is determined to make sure Mashaei will not win.”

Sources close to Hashemi Rafsanjani, including his son, Mohsen Hashemi, have denied such speculation and have reconfirmed the former president’s intention to stay in the race.

In related news, various figures from the principalist faction have increased their attacks on Hashemi Rafsanjani. According to the Fara-Ru website, Karim Qodoosi, an MP for the city of Mashad, announced on Wednesday that “a letter signed by 100 MPs was sent to the Guardian Council asking to disqualify him.”

Qodoosi also said that this is “the second letter sent to the Guardian Council in less than two weeks explaining why Rafsanjani should not be able to run for office.” However, he “acknowledged that such a request would not oblige the Guardian Council to disqualify Rafsanjani.”

Other prominent principalist candidates, including Haddad A’del and Baqer Qalibaf, have strongly attacked Hashemi Rafsanjani’s eligibility to run for office, referring to his weak performance from 1989 to 1997, when he was president. They also criticized Hashemi Rafsanjani’s implicit support for the Green Movement in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election.

The only principalist candidate who has refrained from attacking Hashemi Rafsanjani is Ali Akbar Velayati, who served as foreign minister in the former president’s administration.

Hashemi Rafsanjani’s ability to attract vast numbers of moderate- and reform-oriented votes has angered and deeply divided the principalist faction that is loyal to Ayatollah Khamenei.

If Rahim Mashaei is approved as a candidate, then it is possible that we will see a shift in the principalists’ attitude—possibly becoming less hostile and even surprisingly welcoming towards Hashemi Rafsanjani’s win over Mashaie. But without Mashaei in the race, the principalists would be determined to deter Hashemi Rafsanjani from running.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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