A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rafsanjani's Run Could Make Iran's Elections Interesting — or Not

The fact that 78-year-old former Iranian President (and former just about everything else) Hashemi-Rafsanjani has again thrown his turban into the ring, and that a key backer of outgoing President Ahmadinejad also registered for the Presidential elections at the eleventh hour, could make for an interesting election this summer — but not necessarily. The Guardians Council has yet to vet the candidates and may cut several. Assuming Rafsanjani's credentials are solid enough to stay in the race, his page, his past record, and his defeat in 2005 by Ahmadinejad when he last attempted a comeback suggest that we should not put too much weight on the likelihood of his returning to power. (It also says something about Iran's ideological evolution that this one time right-hand-man to Ruhollah Khomeini is being billed as the reformist candidate.

Rafsanjani is better known than most of the candidates, but a number of them (Ali Akbar Velayati, Saeed Jalili, Ali Baqer Qalibaf) have widespread name recognition, and Qalibaf was apparently popular as Tehran Mayor. Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei was another late entry. As a result, the field includes most of the political spectrum that the regime allows to function politically. But Rafsanjani may have dissuaded others on the reformist wing from standing.

The aftermath of the 2009 elections and the birth of the Green movement still evoke some bitterness. Will these elections be viewed as fair? Of course, it's a loaded question given the Council of Guardians' ability to disqualify candidates.

Here is a selection of other voices:

uzanne Maloney of Brookings: "And They’re Off: The Campaign for a New Iranian President Has Begun." 

Mohammed Ali Shabani at Al-Monitor: "Rafsanjani Registers for High-Stakes Presidential Election."

Farideh Farhi: "Iran Surprises Again."

Gary Sick: "What Just Happened in Iran?"

Barbara Slavin at Al-Monitor: "Don't Get Too Excited Over Rafsanjani's Run."

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