Iran presidential campaign begins without two big names

The Washington Post reports: Iran’s conservatives, who on Tuesday saw the two main moderate threats to their dominance barred from running in next month’s presidential election, face a new challenge: persuading shocked and skeptical Iranians to turn out to vote.

With the field of hopefuls clear, the mostly conservative nominees whose candidacies were approved by Iran’s Guardian Council officially launched their campaigns Wednesday, apparently free from the challenges of the most talked-about candidates, two-time former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ­Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Of the eight approved candidates, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who is a close adviser to the country’s supreme leader, appears to have mounting support among conservative politicians. But he cannot credibly claim popular backing, never having won an election, and his platform of “resistance” is unlikely to win votes from a populace eager for relief from the international economic sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear activities.

Many Iranians seemed more interested in the fates of the two big names who were rejected than in those who were cleared to run, and it remained uncertain Wednesday how Iran’s leaders intend to try to revive the interest sparked by the surprise candidacies of Rafsanjani and Mashaei.

“I swear that every passenger who sat in this car in the past week said they would only vote for the old lion, Rafsanjani,” said a Tehran taxi driver who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal. “I don’t think any of them will vote now.” [Continue reading…]

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