Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the former president of Iran, registered for the June 14 election in the last half hour before the deadline for nominations expired on Saturday. Since he repeatedly said that he did not see any need to take part in the election, his decision to register came as a shock to the Iranian parties and political experts.
Rafsanjani’s daughter told Iran’s Shargh newspaper that “my father did not intend to register for the election up until the last hour. My brother and I joked about it and discussed it with him seriously that his decision to not take part in the election is going to disappoint many people.”
Fatemeh Hashemi told the paper that a single phone call had been pivotal in changing her father’s mind: “It was around 17:15 that my father received a phone call. He answered the call from his room. It was a very short conversation. After he hung up, he walked out of the room and told us about his decision.
“I do not know who called and what was said. But my father looked at us and said ‘Bismillah, let’s go.’ It seems that my father was worried about something and that phone call sorted out his concerns.”
Rafsanjani’s decision came as a pleasant surprise to so many people, especially among Iran’s fractured reformist movement. The reformist candidates from the previous election, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, remain under house arrest, and the movement lacks a high-profile figure to rally around. As a relative moderate, Rafsanjani represents a credible alternative to the more conservative candidates, and is seen as less likely to be excluded from the race by the authorities.
A crowd gathered at the Interior Ministry to welcome the veteran politician, chanting slogans of support. The news of his registration overshadowed that of many other candidates, while a number of others—former first vice-president Mohammad-Reza Aref, former minister of commerce Mohammad Shariatmadari and former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani—announced they would withdraw in favor of Rafsanjani.
Despite the fact that his candidacy is yet to be approved by the Guardian Council, which is tasked with vetting all candidates, a wave of attacks against Rafsanjani has already begun, originating from the ranks of Iran’s conservative politicians.
Conservative lawmaker Alireza Zakani said: “Rafsanjani could not find a coalition to join and is now trying his chances by himself. Even if the Guardian Council closes their eyes to his role in the 2009 unrest, people will not approve him on the June 14 election.”
“Hashemi knows he does not have many votes and is frail. [Former president] Khatami only wants to save the reformist party from death,” Mehdi Taeb, a hard-line cleric affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency on Sunday.
Iran’s Guardian Council will make its decision on the applications by May 16. Its members are then scheduled to take another five days to review appeals from rejected applicants, before announcing its final list of approved candidates to the Interior Ministry on May 21.