The Reformist Consultative Council, chaired by former president Mohammad Khatami, declared its “wholehearted support” for Rafsanjani’s candidacy hours after he registered to run for another term as president. The endorsement makes official the formation of a grand coalition of moderates and reformists for the presidential election that takes place in 35 days. The move is expected to have a ripple effect on a large field of candidates who have registered to run:
- The moderate and reformists candidates will be expected to withdraw in favor of Rafsanjani. They include Hassan Rouhani, Mostafa Kavakebian, Mohammad Reza Aref, Mohammad Shariatmadari and Masoud Pezeshkan.
- The fragmented field of the ‘principlists’ (conservatives) is also expected to shrink significantly in search of a unity candidate able to challenge Rafsanjani. The Coalitions of Three and Five, representing traditional conservatives, are expected to untie behind a single candidate. Most likely Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf or Ali Akbar Velayati. The more fundamentalist groups, considered close to ultraconservative Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, are likely to unite behind Saeed Jalili. It is, however, not likely nor expected that the two principlist camps could field one single candidate, raising the prospect of a split in conservative votes in the first round of the election.
- The pro-Ahmadinejad forces will support Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie if he is candidacy is cleared by the Guardian Council. The principlists, who control the Guardian Council, will have a difficult choice to make in the five-day vetting period: If they disqualify Mashaie, his supporters, especially the young, will likely rally behind Rafsanjani, weakening the prospects of the principlist candidate(s). If they don’t disqualify Mashaie, against all their ideological and political instincts, they would assure the split of anti-principlist votes between Rafsanjani and Mashaie, strengthening their own prospects.
- The unspoken factor in the election will be the role of the imprisoned leaders of the Green Movement: Rafsanjani would need the votes of the youths to seal his victory over principlists, and Mousavi and Karroubi’s support will be key here. However it’s not clear how openly he would seek their endorsements, considering the complications it could create for him with Khamenei and the establishment.
Video: Supporters of Rafsanjani and Khatami in a rally minutes after Rafsanjani declared his candidacy to run for president. Tehran, 11 May 2013 (YouTube)
Iran’s 2013 Presidential Election Series:
Part I: Running for President
Part II: Supreme Leadership RedefinedPart III: Iran’s Presidential Race Gets Underway
Part IV: Rafsanjani to Run for President