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Gaming Iran’s Presidential Election

The signs point to a tight race between former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gives the opening speech during Iran's Assembly of Experts' biannual meeting in Tehran March 8, 2011. Rafsanjani lost his position on Tuesday as head of an important state clerical body after hardliners criticised him for being too close to the reformist opposition. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi (IRAN - Tags: POLITIC
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On May 11, in the last moments before the registration deadline for candidacy, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani registered to run in the elections. The news immediately became the headline of popular Iranian websites. Rumors spread inside and outside of Iran that the reason for Rafsanjani’s late registration was the last-minute registration of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who is endorsed by Rafsanjani’s bitter enemy, [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But news leaked from Rafsanjani’s office exposing something different.

Gholamali Rajaei, member of Rafsanjani’s office, and his aide reported his observations of the last day of registration as follows: On Saturday morning [May 11], Rafsanjani was frequently asked whether he would run in the elections, to which he declared, “I have to consult with the supreme leader. If he remains silent I will run, but if he disagrees, I will definitely not run.” Rajaei said that at 5 p.m., an hour before registration ended, Rafsanjani proclaimed that he was “still waiting for the leader.” Rajaei added that “he [Rafsanjani] was told that if he doesn’t run it is good that he issues a statement and tells the people the reason. … He accepted and told us to prepare the text. We went to the adjacent room and started preparing the text.”

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