Paris, 25 Oct. (IPS) With the date of presidential elections in Iran approaching, the big question of the day is to know if former moderate president Hojjat-ol-eslam Mohammad Khatami will enter the arena or not.
There is no doubt that “seyyed khandan” (the smiling seyyed), the nickname Iranian gave the handsome, chic, charismatic, Parisian-type intellectual cleric remains one of the most popular of all Iranian political figures and if he decides to enter the presidential arena and faces, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad as the candidate of the ruling “Principalists”, the would certainly win, provided the elections are not rigged and manipulated, as they had been in the last elections in favour of the present President.
According to many Iranian observers, Mr. Khatami is still “quite popular” despite the fact that a great majority of his supporters, mostly young ones, women, students and the intelligentsia have been badly deceived by the years of his presidency, mostly his second mandate that saw him constantly bowing and retreating in face of the hard liners, even though he used to enjoy the backing of the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament, as well as a good number of popular and influential press.
Some pro reform journalists and political analysts like Mr. Ahmad Zeydabadi, have advised Mr. Khatami to “overcome” his doubts and not to run,
“The problem with Khatami was, and is, that all those who feverishly supported him with great hopes were expecting to change the structures of the regime, particularly the authoritarian concept of the “velayat e faqih”, or absolute rule of the leader, to normalize relations with the United States, to implement the limited political, social and cultural reforms he had promised, and above all, to stand up firmly to the radicals who were creating obstacles, forgetting that Khatami is not a revolutionary, but an “evolutionary”, commented Mr. Mas’oud Behnoud, a veteran Iranian journalist.
Some pro reform journalists and political analysts like Mr. Ahmad Zeydabadi, have advised Mr. Khatami to “overcome” his doubts and not to run, “because the time is not his time and a possible victory in the elections on the same pattern as before would produce nothing but pain and deception for himself and his supporters”.
So far, in the reformist camp, only Hojjat-ol-eslam Mehdi Karroubi, a former Speaker of the Majles and the leader of the pro-reforms National Confidence Party has officially announced his candidacy, while on the Principalists side no one has listed against Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, who is expected to seek a second term.
Khatami is not the only choice of the reformists. While he is hesitating, other popular reformist personalities like Hojjat-ol-eslam Abdollah Nouri a former Interior Minister under Mr. Khatami or Hojjat-ol-eslam Hassan Rohani, the former Secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security and chief nuclear negotiator etc.. are urged to race.
But contrary to other would be reformist runners, the candidacy of Mr. Khatami would will immediately consolidate the ranks of the Principalists around their main candidate and make the victory of Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad a certainty, while creating more competition, more fratricide fights and more divisions among the reformists, making their defeat irrevocable.
The Revolutionary Guard is becoming the most powerful political force in the nation, replacing the clerical corps
For, not only the Principalists have Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the man who has all the powers in his hands behind them, but they are also in possession of all strategic positions of the regime, the firm support of the Majles and more important, the backing of the Revolutionary Guars which, thanks to Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad, has become not only a powerful political force, even more important than the clerical corps, but also a formidable economic firm.
One has also to remind that back in the last year of Khatami presidency, almost 50 senior officers of the Guards had published an open letter, warning the president not to continue with his reforms, particularly those considering more freedom to the press, to the social class and to the women.
In his present position, an independent intellectual cleric enjoying certain respectability in international intellectual circles advocating dialogue among religions and civilizations etc… and certain popularity at home, Khatami is a rare asset for the regime. But if he decides to run in the upcoming elections, not only he certainly would loose this situation, but also dig his own political grave. ENDS KHATAMI ELECTIONS 251008