How Ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Fell Out of Favor in Three Acts
If we had tagged him until quite recently as a man of politically painted selfies, he is now having trouble to make social and political appearances. Few imagined that the man, who steamrollered through his eight years in office, flaunting his influence in almost everything, would be stuck in such a plight. We are speaking about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013.
There have been many news updates about him. On the one hand, they say he is now left off the list of Expediency Council’s members for the new term. On the other hand, he has seen two unexpected episodes during two public appearances: once in Behesht-e Zahra (the country’s largest cemetery) where families of some martyrs passed strictures on him and again when he attended a public funeral for those killed during Tehran terrorist attacks, where he heard hostile chants by his former supporters.
None is a good sign for Ahmadinejad. He is well aware of the political line-up in Iran, enough to know he is on the brink of an end to his political career. He should make a benchmark decision for himself.
Ahmadinejad - Episode One: Initial entry and exit
Ever since he left the presidential office, many anticipated that Ahmadinejad could not stand being away from high places. They said he would attempt a comeback as soon as possible. However, his silence continued until during a speech in the southern city of Bafq when he said, “I am following developments of the country, but expediency requires that I be not involved. I will be at people’s disposal, when time is ripe.” Before that speech, he would shrug off with silence or a bland joke every question asked about his potential candidacy in the presidential race. Although he could not wait to place himself in front of cameras all the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad preferred to offer nothing to the recorders.
Last year, after a long period of silence and before the beginning of the presidential race, he suddenly became more strenuous than ever. In the memory of his days in office, he visited the country city after city, mosque after mosque. Everywhere he went, there was a carnival of popular reception. For those who knew him, this meant his candidacy.
Out of the blue moon however, he went to visit the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who advised him against a run, which struck Ahmadinejad as a shock. After all, he had many hopes and plans for the May 2017 election. He opted for silence once again, following the visit. However, speculations about the visit between the Supreme Leader and the former president went so far that the Supreme Leader chose to give his own account of the visit. Everything seemed to be over. Ahmadinejad for his part wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader, expressing compliance. There was no doubt that he was not an influence in the election anymore. He also issued a separate statement, saying he would not back any individual, camp, party, or group. “It is my definite, unalterable stance. Some individuals, groups or parties may cite reports or rumors about my support for a certain candidate. I openly state that these reports and rumors are false and strongly denied,” the statement stressed.
Ahmadinejad - Episode Two: Unorthodox reading of a forbiddance
But Ahmadinejad was not ready to let his chance of a run go so easily. He had other plans and had to pave the way for a comeback. The plan consisted of two phases. In phase one, somebody had to step forward, pretend to be Ahmadinejad’s double, to test the waters and lift some of the obstacles. Heads had turned toward Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s close advisor, but he did not want to run. The next best option was Hamid Baghaei. Thus was Baghaei’s run theorized in the words of Mashaei: “What we perceived from the Supreme Leader’s remarks was that Ahmadinejad should not participate only as a candidate”.
Baghaei was a pretext for Ahmadinejad to speak. He published videos and held conferences. He had become part of the election.
The registration window opened. It was time for the second phase to launch. In the hall of the interior ministry building Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned to scores of photographers, took out his ID card, and announced he was signing up in person. In his doing so, he provided another unconventional interpretation of Ayatollah Khamenei’s forbiddance. Now, everyone was waiting to see if the Guardian Council give him the green light. Ahmadinejad’s great risk did not work. He was barred.
Ahmadinejad – Episode Three: Last chance?
A new chapter in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s life has begun. It should be viewed at two political and social levels. At the political side, the most recent update is his absence in the Expediency Council’s next term, a body whose members are directly appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The council was Ahmadinejad’s last link to official power structures after his tenure as the president. The dismissal could be a very bad news to him.
At a social level, the former president always believed he had a support base among the more religious stratum of the society and amng the Principlists. He thought that at least part of the base would remain loyal, despite the various developments they had seen. However, in recent days, in Behesht-e Zahra and the funeral of Tehran terrorist attacks victims, the same body of supporters confronted him in the harshest manner imaginable.
Ahmadinejad has never been so alone. He has lost his link to power as well as his connection to the support base. He is left with a handful of friends, with no guarantee to remain loyal. As it seems, Ahmadinejad is gone with the wind, forever. Some observers, however, still believe he may have another chance; that there may be a unburnt bridge. Does he have a plan?