Iran's VP quits presidential race in favor of Rouhani

Frederick Owens
May 19, 2017

Iranians vote for president on Friday in a contest likely to determine whether Tehran's re-engagement with the world stalls or quickens, although whatever the outcome no change is expected to its revolutionary system of conservative clerical rule.

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.

Although nuclear sanctions on Tehran have been removed following the implementation of the JCPOA last January, most of leading global banks still appear reluctant to do business with Iran over concerns of running afoul of United States regulations. The incident was covered on Iranian television and could have had some impact in Rouhani's support. If no candidate passes the threshold of 50%, a second round is held with the two highest-vote candidates. Raisi, according to various sources, has 21%-27%, probably Fars added the votes for Ghalibaf, who withdrew candidacy in favor of Raisi. "We can not take the renewal of his mandate for granted".

Voicing his full support for the 68-year-old president, he vowed to do everything in his power so that Rouhani could secure a victory in the upcoming election.

The campaign has been marked by stark differences over economic policy between the investment-friendly Rouhani, the architect of the 2015 nuclear deal, and conservatives who want to expand subsidies for the poor and spur domestic industry.

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Over 56 million Iranians are eligible for balloting on decisive Friday. If the then six-candidate field was reduced to the pair, 48 percent of respondents would vote for Rouhani and 39 percent for Raisi, according to the survey released on May 10. It took "20 years to coalesce around a single candidate, but one that lacks executive experience, a clear program and charisma", he said.

It is extremely important in this situation that Ebrahim Raisi is de facto the successor of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the supreme leader of Iran. He was deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years before being appointed in 2014 as Iran's prosecutor-general. Qalibaf's exit only reinforces that view, Maloney said. "At the end of the week, Rouhani is gone".

Qalibaf's withdrawal gave "strength and momentum to Raisi's campaign" at a time when voter interest is peaking, said Mauriello. But he has little direct political experience. Ghalibaf has lost twice in previous elections, first to Ahmadinejad in 2005 and then to Rouhani in 2013. Taking Mr. Rouhani's popular recognition into account, one can state that the possibility of his re-election sounds very beneficial for Iran in order to establish more legitimate channels with global powers and to set up friendly ties with countries in the region. Hard-liners in the USA benefit when Iranian hard-liners are ascendant, and that is bad for both of our countries.

However, Hashemitaba did not say if he is going to withdraw from the presidential race.

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