Iran Elections: Conservative Candidate and Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf Withdraws from Race

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 19, 2017

Two other minor candidates are expected to withdraw before Friday, making the race a showdown between Raisi and Rouhani, clerics who hold strongly opposing views of Iran's future. It was Khamenei who previous year appointed Raisi, 56, to manage the Astan Quds Razavi, an Islamic charity that controls assets worth billions of dollars, as well as the Imam Reza shrine in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

The nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers ended a decadeslong crisis that removed sanctions on almost 80 million Iranians and potentially averted another military confrontation in the Middle East involving the United States. For example, after a recent coal mine blast which killed 42 workers, miners attacked Rouhani's vehicle when he visited the site. My guess is that Abrams' desire for Rouhani to lose is at least partly related to a desire to see the nuclear deal collapse.

"Rouhani may not be a sure bet", argues Exotix Partners, a USA investment firm in a note to investors. For someone who served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, Rouhani was well aware of what he was saying: Any negotiations concerning the broad list of U.S. sanctions on Iran, whether in regard to Iran's missiles program or human rights, will need Khamenei's permission to proceed.

Some experts say Iranian establishment figures may want to keep Rouhani in power to avoid being cast back into isolation. However, Fars believes that it would raise the rating of the president running for the second term by only 2%.

According to BBC News, Ghalibaf encouraged his voters to back Hardliner candidate Ibrahim Raisi in order to ensure the "preservation of the interests of the people, the revolution and the country".

He has saved much of his most stinging criticism for Qalibaf, whose withdrawal now means Rouhani's campaign has to adapt for the final few days, said Foad Izadi, a member of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran who is a critic of the nuclear and Rouhani's foreign policy.

Qalibaf had been under pressure from fellow hard-liners to fall in behind Raisi. Though Mr. Rouhani's Iran has arguably been more open economically and politically, business has been slow and unemployment remains a significant factor.

Raisi faces having to reach out to a wider conservative base in the next few days, Bassiri Tabrizi added, but noted that things are "definitely more hard for Rouhani now".

Last week, Khamenei maintained his drumbeat of disapproval of Rouhani, dismissing the idea that war with the West had been averted by the nuclear diplomacy and dismissing a United Nations education program endorsed by the Rouhani administration promoting gender equality and life-long learning opportunities.

Raisi's candidacy has fueled speculation he is being lined up to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 77.

It's simple. Raisi is the true face of the Islamic Republic, while Rouhani is a façade.

Some observers note the majority of Iranians tend to pick the "anti-establishment" candidate in the line-up of regime-approved contenders. He is a cleric who represents the moderate or reform wing of Iranian politics. In a video he argued Rouhani had managed "to make great accomplishments" despite "facing limitations, problems, and high expectations".

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