Reformist candidate Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh has sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior announcing that he is withdrawing from the election. Although he did not mention any other candidates in his resignation letter, Abdol-Naser Hemmati thanked Mehr-Alizadeh for his resignation as did former President Mohammad Khatami, who then encouraged Reformists to vote for Hemmati.
Former President Mohammad Khatami published a handwritten letter in which he called on Reformists to participate in the elections despite the “cold and depressing atmosphere”. Khatami, whose actions are not reported in Iran due to his support for the 2009 election protests, appealed to nationalistic sentiments, saying that Reformist should vote in order to “properly fulfill their responsibility towards the homeland and the people at this critical time”. The government fears that a low turnout will be interpreted as delegitimising the election result.
The first campaign documentary of Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh aired tonight, although parts of the original were censored. The removed sections amounted to 5-6 minutes of the 27 minute documentary, and included speeches by former Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and by disqualified candidates Mostafa Tajzadeh and Masoud Pezeshkian. The documentary focused on the disqualification of candidates and the backlash by voters. Mehr-Alizadeh had anticipated this censorship and had leaked a trailer earlier in the evening which included the sections that were eventually cut.
First Vice President and candidate Eshaq Jahangiri appealed to the Reformist movement on the Second of Khordad, the anniversary of Mohammad Khatami’s election victory in 1997. Jahangiri wrote on Twitter praising Khatami’s contribution to lessening threats to Iran and improving Iran’s domestic development, and called for a return to a period of internal reform. Although not a Reformist candidate, Jahangiri is appealing to the Reformist vote.
A statement attributed to high-profile Reformist Mohammad Reza Aref is being circulated online which says he has withdrawn his candidacy. Aref served as First Vice-President in Mohammad Khatami’s government, but is rumoured to have fallen out with his former comrade over Khatami’s preference to endorse non-Reformist candidates on the Reformist ticket. Aref himself was pressured by Khatami to step aside for Rouhani in the 2013 election, which Aref did unwillingly.
Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly had a meeting today with former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami and prominent politician and cleric Hassan Rouhani to discuss his potential candidacy. Zarif, who has been endorsed by the Reform Front, reportedly informed Khatami and Khomeini that he will not register for these elections. Recently, Zarif has been subject to controversy due to a scandal involving a leaked audio file, and yesterday was alleged to have also sworn upon the Qur’an that he did not intend to run.
Eleven of the 14 candidates endorsed by the Reform Front last week have presented their plans for the Presidency and met with the Front. However, so far, no plan has been presented by Mohammad-Reza Aref, and the two top choices, current First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and current Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif. The Reformist veteran Aref is known to have had a falling out with the leadership, particularly former President Mohammad Khatami. Jahangiri and Zarif are not part of the Reformist faction, and may not respond for this reason.
A rumour is circulating that high profile Reformist Mohammad-Reza Aref has decided to go it alone in pursuing his presidential campaign, and that he has broken with former president Mohammad-Reza Khatami and the wider Reformist Institution. An article in Mashregh news noted that in recent weeks, Aref has been campaigning with his own team and not with the help official Reformists organisations, and speculation is that he has grown sick of being side lined in Reformist institutions. Aref was the only Reformist candidate in the 2013 Election, as was bitter at the pressure placed upon him to renounce his candidacy in favour of Hassan Rouhani.
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Reformist figure Mohsen Rahami declared if elected, he would be a “new look Khatami with new words”. Stating that if he was allowed to run, he would win 20 million votes, he added that his most important priorities beyond the economy were the protection of the rights of minorities and women.
Mohsen Kouhkan, a prominent Principalist parliamentarian, likened the electoral victories of Rouhani, Ahmadinejad and Khatami to an unwanted pregnancy, using the analogy to mean that all three Presidents approach the elections only to win and had no plans for how to run their administrations.