Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Vice President Jahangiri Quits Iran Presidential Election Race

Vice President Jahangiri Quits Iran Presidential Election Race

Iran's reformist first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, yesterday pulled out of this week's presidential election and endorsed the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, ISNA news agency reported.

Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime's conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking "moderates" are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran's regime and the men who lead it [bold mine-DL].

Iran's relations with the USA, which improved under Rouhani and led to the nuclear deal and the lifting of some sanctions, have also hung over the campaigning.

One of the minor candidates on Friday is 71-year-old Mostafa Mirsalim, a member of the Islamic Coalition Party, one of the oldest conservative factions in predominantly Shia Iran.

But she eventually made a decision to vote for Rouhani, she said, because former president Mohammad Khatami, spiritual leader of the pro-reform movement, had publicly backed him.

Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, center, stands among his supporters, during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2017.

Rouhani's strongest challenger appears to be conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who says Iran does not need foreign help. A majority of Iranians express a favorable view of Rouhani (62 percent) and Ghalibaf (67 percent), while only a third of Iranians view Raisi favorably (32 percent), with 46 percent saying they don't know him. Iranians would most likely view a hardliner as more willing to undermine the nuclear deal and escalate tensions with the unpredictable US president. Every Iranian president since 1981 has won re-election.

Raisi has spent decades in powerful judicial and backroom positions, including as Iran's prosecutor-general. Mr. Rouhani's popularity has gone down, with 74% of Iranians feeling their living standards have not improved following the nuclear deal two years ago.

Raisi's candidacy has revived the controversy surrounding Iran's mass execution of thousands of prisoners in 1988, one of the darkest chapters of the country's history since the 1979 revolution and an event still not acknowledged by authorities.

"Traditionally, a president always runs for the second election in Iran, exception for Abolhassan Banisadr, but nobody was put under such pressure before, as Rouhani", Lana Ravandi-Fadai drew attention. That held true in 1997 with the election of reformer Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, who threw his support Monday behind Rouhani.

Raisi is believed to be Rouhani's main rival in the race but it's not clear if Raisi will be unable to unseat him.

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