Tehran mayor quits race for Iran presidency

Pauline Gross
May 19, 2017

A reformist candidate has dropped out of Iran's presidential election to back President Hassan Rouhani in a widely expected move that will strengthen the incumbent's campaign against a hard-liner.

With only a few days to the election, however, two of the candidates Qalibaf and Jahangiri, dropped out of the race in favour of their fellow-partisans, Raisi and Rouhani, respectively.

Mr Jahangiri played an important role for Mr Rouhani in the heated televised debates held in the weeks running up to the election, during which he defended the president's record and criticised his conservative rivals.

On May 16, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf dropped out of the election to back Raisi, believed to be a favorite of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While Raisi has vowed to respect the 2015 nuclear deal that Rouhani secured to end Iran's economic isolation, a government led by him would likely alarm worldwide investors considering doing business in the Islamic Republic.

"I have completed my historic duty and, together with you, I will vote for Rouhani to help continue on the path to progress for this country", he said.

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Iranian elections are overseen by a clerical body that vets candidates and bars anyone seen as posing a challenge to Iran's unique brand of theocratic rule. "The fact is that Raisi is not a very well-known person in Iran, so I think that Rouhani will win", she said.

Raisi called Qalibaf's withdrawal "revolutionary", the conservative news agency Tasnim reported the cleric as saying on Monday. The others are First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri at 3%, former Culture Minister Mostafa Mirsalim at 3%, and former Mines and Industries Minister Mostafa Hashemi-Taba at 2%.

"Traditionally, a president always runs for the second election in Iran, exception for Abolhassan Banisadr, but nobody was put under such pressure before, as Rouhani", Lana Ravandi-Fadai drew attention. My guess is that Abrams' desire for Rouhani to lose is at least partly related to a desire to see the nuclear deal collapse. A Rouhani win could signal that Iran would stick with its end of the nuclear deal, while a conservative candidate could disrupt the agreement.

Hashemitaba took part in the 2001 presidential election, winning just 28,000 of the 28 millions votes cast.

The main challenger Raisi is a close ally and protege of Khamenei, and was one of four Islamic judges who ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. He was deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years before being appointed in 2014 as Iran's prosecutor-general. He is a cleric who represents the moderate or reform wing of Iranian politics.

If both Ghalibaf and Raisi stay in the race, the already small hard-line base will split their votes among both candidates in the first round, possibly giving Rouhani an easy lead.

Other reports by GizPress

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