For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Presidential Race Is Already Over
It was one week ago that the news circulated online: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been advised by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei not to run for 2017 presidential election.
Iran's ex-president seemed hopeful to regain his seat in 2017, but the disclosure by Principlist figures has put his political future at stake.
The ex-president, during whose tenure Iran witnessed its largest domestic and diplomatic challenges, the 2009 post-election protests, the nuclear standoff with the West and the consequent biting sanctions, had fired up his "provincial tours", his face-to-face meetings with citizens across the country. Heartened by Rouhani's failure to deliver post-nuclear deal economic promises and scandals such as the astronomical payments, Ahmadinejad was making comeback to the front line of politics by his typical pompous measures such as writing letter to Barack Obama and calling for release of Iran's assets.
The rumors of his no-show in the next presidential election where triggered by Mehdi Fazaeli, former head of the influential, IRGC-affiliated news agency Fars News. In a piece published by the news agency, against the common trend in Iranian media, Fazaeli openly claimed that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has advised Ahmadinejad not to run for the 2017 presidential race. Pointing to Iran's "exceptional" situation, economically, politically, and regionally, Fazaeli argued that the country needed to be run with minimum tension and free from "self-created challenges". In a meeting held recently upon request by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss the issue, Supreme Leader had dissuaded the 59-year old politician from running for the upcoming presidential election, Fazaeli claimedt.
Remarks by Faza'eli were met with strong rejection by Ahmadinejad supporters who stated that any quote from the Supreme Leader should be confirmed by his office. Seyyed Javad Abtahi, Principlist MP from Isfahan Province, rejected Fazaeli's remarks, saying that Ayatollah Khamenei habitually refuses to engage in such topics, i.e. candidacy of political figures, directly. The Supreme Leader "has always called for such issues to pass through the legal channel" Abtahi said, adding that such rumors were merely political propaganda by Principlists who held a "grudge" against Ahmadinejad. Bahman Sharifzadeh, cleric close to Ahmadinejad, also rejected Fazaeli's claims, adding that no words attributed to the Supreme Leader were valid unless corroborated by his office, and that Ahmadinejad would continue his provincial trips.
Faza'eli did not back down however, pointing to the credibility of his sources and saying that he would risk persecution had he uttered a false claim. Many also reminded of a similar incident, the first weeks after Ahmadinejad's second-term of presidency in 2009, when a letter "leaked" from the Supreme Leader's office, showing Ayatollah Khamenei's opposition to appointment Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei as his VP, days after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ignored the letter.
Earlier, on September 5th, speaker of the Guardian Council, Iran's supreme legal body responsible for vetting and approving the candidates, had denied rumors about the likely disqualification of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the council for the 2017 election. Calling the news of Ahmadinejad's likely disqualification "false", Kadkhodaei had said the Council would announce its official decision only after the nominees had registered for the May 2017 election.
Those rumors had also proved to be true, however. On Monday, September 19, 2016, Abbas Amirifar, another pro-Ahmadinejad cleric, confirmed that the ex-president will not for 2017 elections. "According to unofficial news, 10 [out of 12] members of the Guardian Council have disapproved Ahmadinejad during an unofficial sitting" Amirifar claimed. Amirifar also approved Fazaeli's remarks that "a supreme official", Iranian media's codename for the Supreme Leader, had advised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to run for the election, but also asked him to put an end to his provincial tours.
The string of comments that have followed in the last couple of days by former or current supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad show the rumor to be true. Former Tehran MP and hardliner cleric Hamid Rasaei, once an avid supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was among those who confirmed the news. "As much as I know, Mr. Ahmadinejad has asked for advice, and [Ayatollah Khamenei] has responded. God willing, the advice-seeker will follow this [advice], otherwise, why did he ask for it?" said Rasaei two days ago. Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, Minister of Culture in Ahmadinejad's second cabinet, also confirmed the news of the meeting between Ayatollah Khamenei and former president. Hosseini also pointed to the "special circumstances" of Iran, adding that Ahmadinejad's return would unite groups inside and outside the country and polarize the atmosphere in a destructive way. "Common sense calls for preventing such an unfortunate outcome" he added, assuring that Ahmadinejad would follow the Supreme Leader's words.
"I believe Mr. Ahmadinejad will not step in" for elections, said Abdol-Reza Davari, Reformist-turned-Ahmadinejadist and a member of Ahmadinejad's inner circle, in his recent interview with the Principlist weekly Mosallas. Davari was the most enthusiastic and optimistic member of ex-president's team in the recent years, touting Ahmadinejad's return to the presidential seat. "Dear Mr. Rouhani, God willing, you will hand the Twelfth Administration to our Doctor [Ahmadinejad]" he had written in his page in July 2014. "We only have to wait for 1110 days". For now, Davari can multiply 1110 by any number he wants.
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