Reformist candidate in Iranian election overshadows Rouhani

Belkis Wille writes: A candidate who entered the Iranian election race to help his boss, President Hassan Rouhani, is emerging as a favourite of reformists for his bold and outspoken campaign, even though he is ultimately expected to step aside.

Eshaq Jahangiri, the first vice-president, made clear when he registered as a candidate for the top job that he was “supplementing” and not challenging the incumbent – indicating his campaign was a tactical move aimed at defending Rouhani’s achievements.

The presidential election on 19 May is the first since the 2015 nuclear deal with the west, when Tehran rolled back its nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of sanctions.

None of the candidates have spoken of scrapping that accord but two conservatives – Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, and the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi – have questioned whether Rouhani has achieved tangible economic benefits.

Jahangiri’s strong appearance in the first of three televised debates boosted the reformists but Ghalibaf said it was a “strange phenomenon” that he was running alongside Rouhani.

Referring to the marginalisation of reformists after the 2009 disputed presidential vote, which gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office, Jahangiri responded: “There’s a movement called the reformist movement and you’ve deprived them of all rights and now you are saying that they shouldn’t even have a candidate?

“I’ve put myself up as a representative of the reformist movement to speak out … They confined everyone to their houses. They [Ahmadinejad’s government] earned $700bn, they took it, they spent it and they left nothing, just unemployment.” [Continue reading…]

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