These days, Saeed Jalili is advancing his presidential aspirations with clockwork precision; he knows what to say and which provinces to visit; and is trying to mobilize his target voter-base using a specific tactic. This means that Jalili has long finalized his decision to run and campaign on a timetable, which makes him the most prepared presidential hopeful at the present. Jalili is forging his own electoral character and repositioning himself for the 2017 presidential race.
If we get to identify the particularities of the Jalili character, the traces of which he has left recently, we could find out which version of Saeed Jalili we will see in the election and of course, how he relates to other candidates. Will he turn himself into Hassan Rouhani’s main contender? Will the Principlists endorse him as their own candidate? Is he that ideal rival Hassan Rouhani has been waiting for in order to recreate the 2013 election scenario?
Arguing that he finished third with over 4 million ballots in the 2013 elections in spite of an underprepared, belated campaign, Jalili’s supporters believe that the former head of nuclear negotiators could achieve a better result and even win the election with a more efficient planning. Such advice has probably made him more resolute to nominate himself.
However, a prominent Principlist figure, the veteran Ahmad Tavakkoli has recently said that the Principlist camp should avoid nominating Saeed Jalili if it wants an electoral victory. Tavakkoli had criticized Jalili’s candidacy in 2013, calling it a huge political mistake. “I think Jalili’s advisors convinced him to run. He did not have enough experience. His most significant executive record was as deputy foreign minister which was in fact a bureaucratic job. The foreign ministry work is not considered executive work,” Tavakkoli said in an interview with Principlist Mosallas Weekly.
Such remarks indicate opposition not only from Ahmad Tavakkoli, but also an influential faction within the Principlist camp, aka the left-leaning wing. In the meantime, Principlists have recently reached a fresh model for convergence, dubbed the Popular Front of Revolutionary Forces (PFRF). Perhaps it was initially expected that Jalili would welcome the new front and commit himself to decisions made in the PFRF. However, his response was quite different.
“I’ve heard about its establishment in the media.” Jalili has said. “For those who have a common approach based on revolutionary thought, synergy is indeed an important issue. And for that to happen we should promote a homogenous discourse. Working towards synergy is good, but the question is what will be the central discourse … We are not supposed to have ‘tribal’ unity but be concerned about issues such as fighting aristocracy, fighting against the US, social justice, resistance, the cause of the underprivileged, and a fair distribution of opportunities” he added.
Jalili has even gone as far as slamming another prominent Principlist hopeful, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf over the case of grave-sleepers. “Concern about grave-sleepers would be truthful only if you feel embarrassed about astronomical pay slips, astronomical possessions, and astronomical real estates,” [pointing to the controversy in the recent month’s over Tehran mayor’s sale of municipality-owned real estate to prominent figures with heavy discounts].
Jalili is trying to replicate the scenario of the 2013 election: not only Hassan Rouhani, but everyone in the race will be his rival. He wants to be the major contender of the race and does not want to share or negotiate the position. Jalili is quite reluctant to be the Principlists’ candidates.
Saeed Jalili was one of the main causes of Hassan Rouhani’s victory in 2013 election. A minority of elite and citizens can relate to his discourse. Even the Principlist right wingers know that he is not a choice apropos the times. The Principlist right has groomed other candidates while the front’s left is considering fresh faces. The split provides a good scene for Hassan Rouhani. All candidates who have the potential to turn into major contenders for Rouhani would collectively turn into third-party candidates, their votes divided. Meanwhile, Jalili is capable of galvanizing reluctant citizens to vote against himself, which will also be beneficial to Rouhani. Perhaps Jalili should learn that politics is a realm of patience. It is not that early beginners will always win.
* This is a slightly modified translation of a piece published in centrist website of Khabaronline. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Iranian Diplomacy's editorial policy.