Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Iranian election back to two-horse race as Tehran mayor withdraws

Iranian election back to two-horse race as Tehran mayor withdraws

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said that Friday's presidential election will place the country at a critical juncture, and its people must choose between peace or tension.

The coalition between the two conservative nominees will benefit the country's economy in a post-election era, if Raeisi manages to assume power through the election.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the 55-year-old mayor of Tehran who lost to Rouhani in 2013, withdrew his candidacy on Monday and called on his backers to switch allegiance to Ebrahim Raisi.

A former police chief and member of the Revolutionary Guards, he has played on his tough-guy image in the past, but this year targeted his campaign against the wealthy elite, who he dubbed the "four-per-centers".

Tajzadeh was alluding to speculations that Raisi is being groomed to succeed Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. So there is a real danger that hopeless and exhausted Iranians will do the same thing they did 12 years ago when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president through a vote for that populist hardliner. He is now facing five rivals, but some could withdraw in favor of more prominent candidates.

Mr Raisi, is now the head of the powerful Imam Reza shrine and charitable foundation in the holy city of Mashhad and, in addition to attracting support from traditional conservatives, is seen as the favoured candidate of the security establishment. It is increasingly hard for Rouhani to sell the deal to voters now given Trump's rhetoric.

The Ploughshares Fund, described by the Obama White House as a key promoter of the nuclear deal, distributed a letter to congressional staffers last week written by former Obama Treasury official Adam Szubin that harshly criticizes pending Iran sanctions legislation.

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This is especially true in the run-up to the elections, which the Regime wants to present to the world as free and fair, as a choice between different candidates, but the Iranian people know that there is no choice at all and they have not been shy about expressing that.

If nobody wins more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round on May 19, there will be a run-off a week later. During his presidential campaign, the United States leader repeatedly called the accord with Iran "the worst deal ever", and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to rip it up. Raisi, who is also running on a campaign to improve the economy, said in the Golestan province: "Citizen's right means the right of an unemployed to find job".

Afterwards Rouhani reacted angrily stating: "Mr. Raisi, you can slander me as much you wish".

Influential reformist activist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who spent years in prison after opposing Ahmadinejad's contested 2009 re-election, worries promises of cash will sway the poor and unemployed.

"The main rival of Rouhani is "lack of participation" by people", said Saeed Leilaz, a Tehran-based political analyst.

Some conservatives had been unhappy that Qalibaf was standing again and risking a split in the anti-Rouhani vote.

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