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Don’t Get Too Excited Over Rafsanjani’s Run

Iran’s former president throws his turban into the ring, but enthusiasm should be tempered by his spotty record, Iran’s bipolar system and the daunting challenges facing any Iranian leader.
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 attends 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: POLITICS) - RTR2JLGP

News over the weekend that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has entered the race for Iranian president produced surprise and elation in some quarters that politics in the Islamic Republic are not completely dead.

But assuming Rafsanjani survives vetting by the system’s clerical-run Guardian Council, his chances for victory against conservatives supported by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei should not be overestimated. Any enthusiasm for Rafsanjani’s candidacy should be tempered by his uneven past record as president in domestic and foreign affairs, Iran’s bipolar political system and the difficulty facing any Iranian leader in dealing with the country’s sharp downward trajectory.

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