Presidential candidates and upcoming parliamentary elections

Tehran, Nov 10, IRNA – Despite their failure to reach the presidential office, 2013 presidential nominees are preparing for the winter elections of Majlis.

Tehran, June 2013: It was still spring, but the heat wave had already arrived with presidential campaigns. From the initial pool of eight candidates that vied for the post, six remained in the game until the last day and eventually, it was Hassan Rouhani who received the key to presidential office in Pasteur Avenue. Other candidates, however, have not taken a break from politics. Some are preparing for the parliamentary election that is scheduled for February 2016; others are making provisions for the next presidential election in 2015. Arman-e Emrooz has taken a look at 2013 presidential candidates and their current plans:

Ali-Akbar Velayati: Pro-Government 'moderate' Principlist
Velayati, who held the portfolio of foreign minister for sixteen years, used to be a trusted figure for traditional conservatives. During the previous parliamentary election, he served as speaker of the United Front of Principlists which was directed by the late Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, [Principlists' patron and spiritual leader]. After the 2013 presidential election, he replaced Rouhani as Head of the Center for Strategic Research. His refusal to step down in favor of other Principlist candidates in the 2013 presidential election and his close relations with Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani have turned him into a favorite subject of criticism by Principlist media. Criticisms intensified after Velayati endorsed the nuclear Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and backed the team of negotiators. More than being a member of the traditional faction of Principlists, Velayati is now considered a 'moderate' member of the camp. Traditional parties of the camp, such as Mo'talefeh, now prefer to forge alliance with more radical factions such as Paydari. Unlike four years ago, Velayati has no prominent role in pre-election clamor; however, if an alliance between moderate Principlists and pro-Government elements is going to take place, his role will be quite an important one.

Mohammad Gharazi: Ever-independent
With two decades of service in various offices, Gharazi was a familiar face for the first and second generations of the revolution, yet no one expected him to run for presidency in 2013, and Generation Y had no familiarity with Gharazi after his long hiatus on the sidelines of politics. Gharazi probably did not expect qualification by the Guardian Council. A look at his style of campaigning is illuminative: had no electoral headquarter, and with a small entourage including his son and his bodyguards, Gharazi toured around the country to promote his candidacy. Despite insignificant number of votes, Gharazi took advantage of the presidential election to reintroduce himself to the public. With the political capital gained, he has decided to run for the tenth parliament. Once again, there are no electoral slates and no hustle and bustle, only Gharazi's personal decision is at work.

Rezaei: Back to uniform
Officially, Rezaei is the secretary of the Council of Expediency Discernment. After years of commanding the Revolutionary Guards, in the late 1990s he decided to try his luck in politics. However, this shift was never fortunate or fruitful for Rezaei. He has run unsuccessfully in three presidential elections (2005, 2009, and 2013). Rezaei stepped aside a few days before presidential poll in 2005, and he gained no particular victory in the next two. Recently, Rezaei has appeared in the public with his military uniform, a move which some interpret as a response to Middle East intensifying conflicts and a symbolic expression of readiness for defending the country. He may also have plans to return to the barracks, some have suggested. Nonetheless, even such a return would not imply his withdrawal from the parliamentary election. Rezaei has a political party and a number of influential media on his side. Besides, in 2013 presidential elections he was the only candidate who managed to outvote Rouhani in a number of provinces. His local support base may prove helpful in the parliamentary election.

Qalibaf: Busy and in trouble
Despite early predictions, Rouhani's toughest rival in the presidential election turned to be an absolute underachiever. Qalibaf's failure in reaching Pasteur did not translate into his stronghold, Tehran Municipality, however. A sudden switch of allegiance by Elaheh Rastgou, Reformist member of the Tehran City Council, helped Qalibaf to retain his seat by a vote margin of one. These days, sporadic rumors have emerged about disagreements between the mayor of Tehran and his Principlist supporters in the council. With auditing reports about Tehran Municipality subsidiaries' fiscal performance, Tehran's mayor is having tough days. Despite such developments, Qalibaf is still a heavyweight in the Principlist camp, and can count on the backing of a large number of media during the parliamentary election. He is acting cautiously these days; watchful not to take a stance that hardliners may not like, while hinting at the government's shortcomings, from the JCPOA to its economic policies.

Haddad Adel: Low-profile literatus
Haddad Adel stepped down from competition in 2013 presidential election four days before the polls. The peak of Haddad's influence was during his tenure as speaker of the 7th Parliament. It has been silent days for Haddad Adel in the parliament and even controversial issues such as examination of JCPOA have not impelled him to take an explicit stance. His silence does not equal inactivity though and Paydari MPs have relied on him in key sessions of the parliament. It seems that the hardliner factions of the parliament are planning to nominate Haddad for the key position of speakership in the parliament.

Aref: Active
His stepping down a few days before the presidential poll facilitated consensus around Hassan Rouhani among the Reformists in 2013 competition. Observers expected him to receive a post either in Rouhani's cabinet or in the higher education system. Aref, however, decided to further organize his support base and get ready for the Tenth Parliament elections. He was probably the only candidate of the 2013 presidential election that continued with his plans the day after the election. Khatami's first vice president has now become a prominent figure of the Reformist camp and some members of his entourage wish to turn him into the central figure of the Reformist election campaign. His candidacy is almost certain and he also has an eye on the position of speakership. This vision is contingent upon the electoral slate of the Reformists and the outcome of their negotiations with the so-called moderate camp.

Jalili: From silence to censure
Jalili was diametrically opposed to Rouhani in 2013 presidential elections. The 'no' he received from voters persuaded him to remain silent during the first two years of Rouhani's presidency and, unlike some of his companions, avoid any direct criticism of the government. His silence was strange, considering that he had directed the nuclear negotiating team for six years. However, after finalization of the nuclear deal, not only he broke silence, but also directed the toughest criticisms against the negotiators during parliamentary briefings. Apparently the former presidential candidate is not unwilling to play a role in domestic politics and serve as the opposition of Rouhani's government. The upcoming parliamentary election may see Jalili's nomination by Paydari. (IR Diplomacy)
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