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Iran: Rouhani and Aref to form coalition - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this photo released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, presidential candidates from right, Mohammad Gharazi, Mohammad Reza Aref, Saeed Jalili, Ali Akbar Velayati, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, Hasan Rowhani, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, and Mohsen Rezaei, attend a TV debate in a state-run TV studio, in Tehran.  (AP Photo/Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Mehdi Dehghan)

In this photo released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, presidential candidates from right, Mohammad Gharazi, Mohammad Reza Aref, Saeed Jalili, Ali Akbar Velayati, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, Hasan Rowhani, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, and Mohsen Rezaei, attend a TV debate in a state-run TV studio, in Tehran. (AP Photo/Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Mehdi Dehghan)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In what may prove to be a boost for Iran’s beleaguered reformists, the two liberal-leaning candidates for the upcoming presidential election have reportedly agreed to form a coalition to avoid splitting the reformist vote.

The two candidates, Hassan Rouhani and Mohammad Reza Aref, were urged to form a common front by a working group set up by reformists to hammer out the details of a deal.

The group now says it will announce the final candidate the results of its debates and the identity of the final candidate on Monday.

Rouhani, the only cleric in the race, is seen as a moderate, centrist figure, despite his former role as a key aide on defense and foreign policy to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, which involved acting as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.

Aref, on the other hand, is more closely identified with the reformist camp, having served as vice-president under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

The move was welcomed by Khatami, who served two terms as president between 1997 and 2005.

Khatami also said that a coalition would give heart to reformists who had been disappointed by the disqualification of moderate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, also a former president, by Iran’s Guardican Council, which vets all presidential and parliamentary candidates.

Speaking to a group of reformist city council candidates on Saturday, Khatami said: “Hashemi Rafsanjani boosted the election mood by his registration. However, his disqualification disappointed many people and took a great opportunity from the Iranian people and the society.”

Khatami also called for unity, saying that reformists should back the coalition even if they had doubts, saying: “supporters of the reformist party must follow their ideals and be realistic at the same time.”

Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, previously predicted that a reformist coalition was in the offing in an interview with Tehran’s Shargh newspaper.

She said: “People will have one candidate as a representative of the reformist party in the upcoming presidential election in less than 24 hours.”

Eshraghi, who is married to Mohammad Reza Khatami, a brother of the former president, recently became the head of National Headquarters of Young Reformists, a ‘get out the vote’ organization aimed at Iran’s youthful liberals.

Eshraghi said: “I did not intend to accept this position for various reasons. The increasing inflation and reformists’ tight budget is making the advertisement process very difficult.”

As the Iranian presidential campaigns do their best to convince the voters to vote their party candidate, the commander of Iran’s Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base has publicly called on the country’s military personnel to avoid any interference in political campaigns.

General Farzad Esmaeili told his officers in Khatam Al-Anbiya base: “voting in the election is a moral and official duty for all officers. However, you must bear in mind that the article 40 of Armed Forces Crime Act clearly states that ‘armed forces are banned from interfering in political campaigns.’ The reason behind it is that any interference would harm the security of the country.”

“[Though] Interfering in political campaign does not necessarily mean that officers should not go to a presidential candidate’s campaigns, you should avoid any political affiliation even among your family members,” Esmaeili concluded.

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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