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Analysis: Iranian Parties Hint At Presidential Candidates

President Khatami Though Iran's next presidential election is still nine months away, there is a great deal of speculation about the likely candidates.

"I would rather someone else enter the presidential race, but if the society as well as prominent pundits conclude that I can fulfill this task better, I will announce my readiness," Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told reporters in Mashhad on 16 September, IRNA reported. Rafsanjani added that there is plenty of time for other candidates to come forward.

The reformist Islamic Labor Party's Abbas Ahmadi told Fars News Agency on 10 September that Hashemi-Rafsanjani has met with leaders of his organization and announced that he would run as a candidate under certain conditions. Rafsanjani said his decision would depend on the country's political climate, and he would do it for the sake of the revolution and the system.
"The presidential election will represent the religious democracy in Iran."

Former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Musavi is the reformists' favorite, but he is being coy about his intentions (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 6 September 2004). Given the difficulties President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami has had in accomplishing anything substantive since being elected in May 1997, Musavi's hesitation is understandable.

"Election of an informed, experienced, faithful, and capable manager will expedite [Iran's] development," Majid Ansari of the pro-reform Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mubarez) said in the 23 August "Aftab-i Yazd." He added that a strong democracy with public support through elections will neutralize foreign threats. Musavi, therefore, is the only candidate for the 2nd of Khordad Front, Ansari said, adding, "We are still talking to Musavi."

Another prominent member of the Militant Clerics Association, Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pur, also weighed in on Musavi's behalf, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 11 September. Mohtashami-Pur described Musavi's "main qualifications" as "his trustworthiness, truthfulness, and honesty." He added that Musavi managed the country during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq and said that the country's infrastructure is under attack. "We need individuals such as Engineer Musavi, whose main concern day and night is the people."

Ansari said on 12 September that efforts to persuade Musavi to run as a presidential candidate are continuing, IRNA reported. Addressing the annual meeting of the Office for Strengthening Unity student organization, Ansari added, "The president is representing the republican aspect of the system and the presidential election will represent the religious democracy in Iran."

An anonymous "informed source" said in the 8 September "Resalat" that Musavi definitely will not be a candidate. Quoting an anonymous "prominent theoretician of the 2nd of Khordad Front," the source said: "the 2nd of Khordad Front groups are now going to select another person as their candidate in the presidential elections. This is because Mir Hussein Musavi has announced explicitly and clearly that he is definitely not going to stand as a candidate." Musavi reportedly gave many reasons for not running, but the source refused to share them.

Hamid Reza Taraqi, a member of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party's central council, said its strategy is to encourage high public participation in the election by supporting the candidate most likely to unite the voters and gather the highest number of votes, ISNA reported on 7 September. Taraqi said Ali Akbar Velayati -- former foreign minister and current adviser to the supreme leader -- might be a candidate but the Islamic Coalition Party has not started considering candidates. Taraqi concluded that the party has not made a decision on Velayati or anybody else.

Another Islamic Coalition Party member, Hassan Ghafurifard, said in the 4 September "Sharq" that Velayati has decided to run for president. "As far as I know, he has decided to stand for the elections and he has even made the arrangements for his campaigning."

Urumiyeh parliamentary representative Abed Fatahi has mentioned Expediency Council secretary and former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander Mohsen Rezai as a possible candidate for president, the reformist "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 9 September. "Channels and sources close to Mohsen Rezai are propounding the likelihood of his presence in the presidential election, which in some respects is a source of delight." Among Rezai's advantages over other possible candidates, Fatahi mentioned "his youth and the fact that he was a fighter and an expert in economic, political, and military affairs."