Khamenei puts stop to Ahmadinejad's return

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finally puts an end to months of speculation about whether he will run for office in next year’s presidential vote.

al-monitor Iran's then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a visit to Baghdad, July 18, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Hadi Mizban/Pool.
Misha Zand

Misha Zand


Topics covered

reformists, mahmoud ahmadinejad, iranian politics, iranian media, iranian elections, hard-liners, ali khamenei

Sep 27, 2016

On Sept. 27, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent an official letter to the supreme leader of Iran announcing that he will not run as a candidate in the May 19 presidential election.

In his letter, Ahmadinejad referred to an Aug. 30 meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and wrote, “You recommended that it is not suitable at this time for me to participate in the elections. Therefore, I have declared my obedience. … I have no plans to compete in next year’s election.”

Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, also thanked the supreme leader for his public lecture on Sept. 26 in which Khamenei indirectly referred to this meeting. Khamenei recounted that he was approached by a gentleman whom he did not consider suitable for candidacy, and said, “I did not tell him not to run. I said it is not in your own or the country’s best interests to run.”

Khamenei was widely quoted in Persian-language newspapers. Ebtekar News wrote Sept. 27 that even though the political hard-line faction knew about it, “Ahmadinejad’s supporters insisted that this news be announced publicly for them to accept it.”

The supreme leader’s indirect remarks may put a final end to months of unconfirmed rumors of Ahmadinejad's candidacy that had been circulating and sporadically surfacing in the media. At the peak of the rumors, before Khamenei’s Sept. 26 remarks, even previous Ahmadinejad ally Hamid Rasaei, a former member of parliament, wrote that some media were reporting on meetings involving the supreme leader “ascribing to him quotes regarding the election.”

Even though Ahmadinejad enjoyed the political support of the supreme leader his first term in office (2005-2009), during his second term (2009-2013) the president fell out of favor with Khamenei, causing several public incidents, such as Ahmadinejad's 11-day sulk in 2011 when he refused to show up for work after disagreeing with the supreme leader over the reinstatement of the minister of intelligence.

In 2014, stories about the former president’s visits to smaller towns slowly developed into ones about frequent domestic trips to various provinces and meetings with supporters. Shohada-ye Iran, a pro-Ahmadinejad news outlet, published a report April 28 titled “Supporters of the government fear Ahmadinejad’s trip to Jiroft.” Jiroft is a town with less than 100,000 inhabitants, and according to the report, Ahmadinejad was planning to talk at a “memorial for martyrs in the city.”

Not counting the media outlets directly linked to Ahmadinejad, a rare unified wave of voices from the Reformist camp and hard-liners dominated the opinion sections and the front pages welcoming Khamenei’s Sept. 26 remarks.

Ahmadinejad ended his official Sept. 27 letter to the supreme leader wishing him good health and added, “God willing, I will always proudly remain the revolution’s little soldier and a servant to the people.”

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