Despite previously dismissing the idea of stepping aside in Iran's presidential race, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf withdrew May 15 in favor of fellow conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi. This unexpected move has left political analysts wondering whether it will actually benefit Raisi or, conversely, the incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, in the May 19 election.
Ghalibaf, a three-time presidential candidate, had run a controversial campaign. On May 8, his campaign adviser, Mahmud Razavi, had tweeted, “Poll results show that Ghalibaf now has more votes than Rouhani and thus will not — under any circumstances — withdraw from this race.” On the same day, Ghalibaf's political adviser, Hossein Ghorbanzadeh, also editor-in-chief of the daily Hamshahri, which is run by the Tehran municipality, tweeted, “If Ghalibaf withdraws, Rouhani will be elected in the first round of voting. He will not, under any circumstances, withdraw from the race. This is a rumor propagated by Rouhani supporters with the hope of inciting fear.”