Amid preparations for Iran’s presidential elections, scheduled for June 2013, three reformist figures held a rare meeting with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This meeting is the first of its kind since the protests that followed the 2009 elections.
Sources said that the meeting was held in the last few days, and included former MP Majid Ansari; Iran's former minister of industry, Issac Jahangiri; and, former Interior Minister Abdul Wahid Mousavi Lari.
Ansari, who is also a member of the Expediency Discernment Council of the System, said that the meeting was held under suitable conditions, and “we discussed general issues that matter to the country.” Ansari denied that the presidential election issue was raised.
Lari refused to comment on the meeting. Yet, Abbas Abdi, a reformist writer, praised the meeting between the supreme leader and reformist figures to improve the internal situation, calling on the former reformist president Mohammad Khatami to make a similar move. He added: “The situation in Iran is not good, and does not serve any party.” He feels that the reformists’ lack of participation in the government does not help the political system, “although some believe that they can remove some parties from the political scene.”
Abdi urged reformists not to withdraw from the scene, and warned that “it does not [help them] achieve their goal of supporting society.” He called for “deepening” political rhetoric with the citizens, as well as with the intellectual and social elite.
The meeting with the supreme leader comes at the time when political circles are actively preparing a platform for elections, and drawing a map for candidates, whether they are from the ruling conservative or reformist movements.
The candidates’ image is not in its final form, although some figures announced their willingness to be candidates, including former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati; the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf; Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council of the System Mohsen Rezaee; and former Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari. Yet, it is unclear which candidates will be supported by reformists or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s movement.
Controversy is stirring up over the possibility that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president of Iran and current head of the Expediency Council, will stand in the elections. Some circles believe that his candidacy is a necessity to address Iran’s political and economic problems, in view of his experience and competence at both the internal and external levels, particularly since he expressed his willingness to be a candidate if support was sufficient.
Yet, sources believe that Rafsanjani requires the supreme leader’s consent to put forward his candidacy, while parties opposing him seek to undermine his potential candidacy, and to exert pressure to convince the supreme leader to refuse to sanction his bid.
The sources noted that prominent religious authorities in the city of Qom welcome Rafsanjani’s candidacy, and may call on Khamenei to ask him to stand for elections. Yet, the sources added that “this depends on the developments in the next two months.”
Reformists are divided into those who support and those who oppose running in the elections, based on their experience in 2009. They insist upon removing the circumstances that halted their political activity and reverting the situation back to what it was before 2009.
Nevertheless, sources believe that the fact that the supreme leader agreed to meet with reformist figures indicates that the Iranian leadership wants to show that the internal situation is improving, in order to ensure the largest participation possible in the elections. Rafsanjani is at the head of this current, in collaboration with conservative figures, such as Asadallah Asgaroladi, the leader of the Islamic Coalition Party, and Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, chairman of the Assembly of Experts. In spite of that, sources suggest that the elections will witness surprises and repercussions, and believes that Iran is approaching a “hot summer.”