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Tehran mayor steps aside as conservatives rally forces ahead of presidential vote

Tehran’s mayor, a two-time presidential candidate, has announced that he will not run in the May 19 vote. Meanwhile, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holds his first press conference in almost four years.
Tehran's mayor and presidential candidate, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf prays at the tomb of Shah Abdolazim before voting in the first round of the presidential election on June 14, 2013 at a polling station at Shah Abdolazim mausoleum in southern Tehran. Iranians are voting to choose a new president in an election the reformists hope their sole candidate will win in the face of divided conservative ranks, four years after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI        (Photo cre

Mayor and two-time presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has announced that he does not intend to run in the presidential elections May 19. The move came amid widespread speculation that Ghalibaf would take a third shot at the presidency, having been the runner-up to Hassan Rouhani in the 2013 elections. 

Following his statement, there were reports in Iranian media indicating that Ghalibaf is upset with the conservative coalition’s decision to not back him as its consensus candidate. Some reports claim that Ghalibaf has reached an agreement with conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of the holy shrine of Shiite Imam Reza in the city of Mashhad, to serve as his vice president if the latter runs and is ultimately elected.

According to the moderate Entekhab news site and the conservative Tasnim news agency, Raisi’s candidacy is certain, as he has reportedly resigned from the election monitoring committee, as required by law. However, Entekhab is quoting sources claiming that Raisi has not agreed to the conservative coalition’s demand that all conservative candidates “withdraw at the last minute in favor of the sole conservative candidate who has the greatest chance [of winning the vote].”

Of note, the conservative coalition, which is formally called the Popular Front of Revolutionary Forces and known by its Persian acronym JAMNA, will hold a summit April 6 to make a decision about how to approach the presidential elections. JAMNA aims to choose five candidates from the present 14, and in the end, the one who has the greatest chance will be chosen as the only conservative candidate. However, it still seems as if some conservative candidates, including Mostafa Mirsalim, have not agreed to potentially be excluded from the final list of five conservative candidates.

On April 5, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a press conference for the first time in almost four years. He spoke about a range of issues, including the upcoming presidential elections and US President Donald Trump.

At the press conference, Ahmadinejad accused the moderate government of President Rouhani of publishing false information about the state of Iran’s economy. He also said that the Rouhani administration has caused setbacks for Iran. In reaction to reports about corruption in his government, Ahmadinejad said, “They accused me of all the corruption that has happened in history. Have any of the accusations been proven?”

In response to a question about whether he is defying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “advice” last autumn that he not run in the upcoming vote, he said, “The [supreme] leader told me not to run; he didn’t tell me to be indifferent [toward the vote].”

Ahmadinejad continued, “I don’t have any plan for the presidential elections, but I support [my former Vice President] Mr. [Hamid] Baghaie as the most deserving candidate."

He added, "There is no reason for Baghaie to be disqualified [by the Guardian Council]. I will do my best to get him approved, but we have chosen an alternative [candidate in case of Baghaie's disqualification]."

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