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Iran's Reformists asked to put forward presidential candidate

Former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi has called on Reformists to pick a candidate. 
Supporters of Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi hold posters of him during an election campaign rally in the capital, Tehran, on June 10, 2021.

Mehdi Karroubi, the 2009 presidential candidate who was put under house arrest for challenging the result of those elections, has urged Iranians to vote despite the shortcomings of the election process.

According to his son Hossein, Karroubi said this year’s disqualifications were “unprecedented.” Well-known moderate candidates such as Ali Larijani and Eshaq Jahangiri and former conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were all disqualified from running for the presidency.

Karroubi believes a minority faction within the establishment who lack popular support are “trying to eliminate any remnant of a republic from the political system.” It is no secret at this point that a powerful group is pushing the candidacy of current Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi. According to Karroubi, this small group is counting on a small turnout to get the election result they desire.

Karroubi understood there are those who have chosen not to participate because the current election process has been a “national humiliation.” However, he has encouraged the Reformist groups in the country to pick a candidate. Reformists have not formally endorsed any candidate, and they have repeatedly said all of their candidates have been disqualified from running.

Despite the public statements that Reformists do not have a candidate, there is speculation that Reformists are endorsing moderate candidate and former head of the Central Bank Abdolnaser Hemmati. Hossein Marashi, spokesperson for the Reformist party the Executives of Construction Party of Iran said during an April 30 interview that Reformists would introduce “secret candidates” in the final minutes before the election. He explained that the criteria for a secret candidate would be that they can pass the Guardian Council, attract popularity and manage the country competently. According to Khabar Online, Marashi said Hemmati was a secret candidate.

While Reformists search for a candidate, conservatives are making calls to unite. Of the seven candidates permitted to run in the election, five of them are conservatives. Alireza Zakani, one of the conservative candidates, said on June 13 the five candidates should “move to converge.” He did not explain which candidates should step aside and which should remain. He warned that too many conservatives would result in what happened during the 2013 presidential election in which they divided the conservative vote, paving the way for Hassan Rouhani's election.

Zakani was not the only person to speak up for the need to unite conservatives. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of influential conservative Kayhan newspaper, wrote about the need for conservative candidates to step aside in favor of one conservative candidate. He warned that a failure to do so “would be a tragedy” and “a heavy blow” to the Islamic Republic. According to Shariatmadari, conservatives should see who is ahead in the polls and decide to unite behind that candidate. Some conservative candidates, such as Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, have rejected his call and said they have a religious duty to go all the way through.