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Iran: the leading players in the Presidential elections


Insight

Iran: the leading players in the Presidential elections

Polls are set to open in Iran on Friday as voters look to elect a new president.

Senior cleric Hassan Rowhani is a strong favourite; He may benefit from votes from green supporters, whose candidates have been stopped from participating. Strong reformist backing and public recommendations for the role from previous presidents could seal victory for him.

Former nuclear negotiator and conservative candidate Saed Jalili is the most anti-western of the hopefuls. He is seen as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s favourite candidate.

Current Tehran mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf has tried to gain votes from both reformists and hard-line voters. He is former air force commander of the Revolutionary guards and ex-head of the Iranian police.

Ali Akbar Velayati was Iran’s foreign minister for over 16 years. He is a conservative figure, and sympathizes Ayatollah Khamenei’s views. Velayati has said he hopes to enter to enter talks with Syria over ending their internal conflict, with western help, if he is elected.

No candidate has managed to win the united support of hardliners, and many feel this will pave the way for a moderate candidate to claim victory.

Iranian polls: ‘West is really interested’

Mohammad Mohammadi, euronews: “The countdown has begun for the presidential elections in Iran, and with it the suspense to see who will replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after an eventful eight years.

“We have Professor Sadegh Zibakalam with us by video link, at Tehran University, to ask him about the latest polling developments. Hello Professor. In the last elections, the Iranian people and the regime had observers around the world on the edge of their seats, so to speak. This time, everything has been kept low key. Can we expect any surprises in the turnout or the results?”

Sadegh Zibakalam: “I think even at this stage, we can say that we are witnessing very, very surprising developments. Among the most important surprises taking shape is the very high level of participation. Another surprise is the silence of the outgoing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – this in spite of the fact that many people thought he would take action after his favourite candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaee was disqualifed.”

euronews: “Will that silence continue?”

Zibakalam: “If the election goes to the second round, I don’t think he will keep quiet. I think in the second round he’d support the conservative candidate, no matter who it was.”

euronews: “With the withdrawal of reformist candidate Mohammad Rez Aref, the moderates and reformists have shown they can form a coalition, but not the conservatives. Should the conservatives feel any danger in carrying on with several candidates?”

Zibakalam: “That is exactly the case; some conservatives have criticised their camp very seriously. They are asking why they are being overstretched, asked to take part with more than one candidate in the field. This self-criticism among the conservatives has become increasingly prominent, particularly after the reformists agreed to support Rohani after Aref’s withdrawal from the race.”

euronews: “What do you think about Supreme Leader Khamenei’s favourite candidate?”

Zibakalam: “In contrast to the elections four years ago and eight years ago, it is not really clear which candidate is the leader’s favourite. What is sure is it’s not Rohani, and maybe not even Aref. But nobody can really say which conservative candidate is his favourite.”

euronews: “Washington has said that it does not support any particular candidate, but, diplomacy aside, does the West favour one of the candidates over the others?”

Zibakalam: “Certainly: the West, the United States, the 5+1 group of world powers, and even the Arab world – including our neighbours in the Persian Gulf – can’t be indifferent towards the Iranian elections, because if the conservatives – and especially the more radical conservatives – win the elections, the situation will be continue as it has over the past eight years. I think, Iranians think, that these countries are following Iran’s elections with a lot of interest, while they are pretending to be not particularly interested.”

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