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Analysis: Disunited Reformist Front In Iran Seeks Presidential Candidate

"The reformist current is now a dead current, and I think it is going to be highly unlikely for it to be able to find a unanimously agreed candidate in the forthcoming presidential election," Tehran parliamentary representative Emad Afruq said according to "Kayhan" on 16 October. As a member of the conservative Islamic Iran Developers Council (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami), one might expect such negative statements from Afruq.

Yet there is little question that former Prime Minister Mir-Hussein Musavi's refusal to run for president has left the reformist parties wondering whom to back now. Moreover, the lack of unity in the reformist front, a possible cause of the trouncing the reformists suffered at the polls in February, is not helping the situation.

Mustafa Derayati, a member of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party's central council, said on 15 October that with Musavi's refusal to run for president, his organization will back former Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin, Mehr News Agency reported. Derayati said the Participation Party has not yet spoken with Moin.

The more progressive reformist organizations, namely the Participation Party and the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, are trying to persuade the Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mubarez) and the Executives of Construction Party to back Moin's candidacy, "Sharq" reported on 18 October.

Moin is trained as a physician, but his background since the revolution makes him a good candidate for president, according to the reformist daily. Moin was born in Najafabad, home of Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri, but he has never been accused of close ties with the dissident cleric. Nor has he been accused of ignoring religious issues like veiling, being pro-Western, or secularism. Moin, Abdolkarim Sorush, Ali Shariatmadari, and Ahmad Ahmadi were members of the Cultural Revolution Headquarters established in 1980 that was tasked with training and vetting professors, selecting students, and Islamizing universities and their curricula. His most important responsibility was serving on the committee that selected students, according to "Sharq," and he was not involved with the initial purge of the universities.
Political commentators in Iran are warning that the divisions over a candidate will torpedo the reformists' election hopes.

In the mid-1990s, "Sharq" continued, Moin was secretary of the Coordination Council of the Group's Following the Imam's Line, a left-wing coalition that included the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization and the Office for Strengthening Unity. As a minister in the Khatami cabinet, Moin submitted his resignation unsuccessfully twice -- once after the violent suppression of student demonstrations in July 1999 and again after student unrest in May 2003. Moin resigned in July 2003 mainly because the Guardians Council rejected a bill for restructuring his ministry (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 August 2003).

Former Tehran parliamentary representative and student activist Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni told a gathering of the Office for Strengthening Unity that the only presidential candidate that could challenge the conservatives is Expediency Council Chairman and former President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 16 October. If Hashemi-Rafsanjani refuses, he said, the Executives of Construction Party, the Islamic Labor Party, and the Labor House will back anyone that Hashemi-Rafsanjani recommends.

The 70-year-old Hashemi-Rafsanjani, however, continues to indicate his lack of enthusiasm for a third term as president (he was president in 1989-97). He said in an 18 October meeting with parliamentarians and other officials that new people must enter the political scene, ISNA reported. Addressing the Iran Specialists Association (Majma-yi Motakhasesan-i Iran) and several parliamentary representatives, he said, "The interests of the state necessitate that the world should feel that Iran has the potential to produce capable individuals."

Hashemi-Rafsanjani indicated that he would serve as president again only with great reluctance: "I am a soldier of the revolution and I am willing to spend the rest of my life serving the revolution and Islam. I am quite prepared to serve in any position that the state and people feel I will be of some use. However, I prefer other honest and capable individuals to assume the responsibilities of the chief executive." Hashemi-Rafsanjani added that the current international and domestic climates make management of the country difficult.

If Hashemi-Rafsanjani does decide to run, Noshahr va Chalus representative Anushiravan Muhseni Bandpai told Mehr News Agency on 20 October, he would be out of range of conservative sniping. Moreover, he would be more popular than the other possible conservative candidates -- Ali Larijani, Ali Akbar Velayati, or Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad -- and he could side somewhat with the reformist front.

Political commentators in Iran are warning that these divisions over a candidate will torpedo the reformists' election hopes. "Given the existence of divisions within the 2nd of Khordad Front [named after the date of President Mohammad Khatami's May 1997 election]," former student activist and Tehran parliamentary representative Ali Akbar Musavi-Khoeni said, "it seems unlikely it will be able to play an effective role in the [upcoming presidential] elections." He recommended that the reformist grouping increase its popular support by opening its doors to the national-religious activists and the banned (but tolerated) Freedom Movement, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 16 October. Musavi-Khoeni said the Islamic Iran Participation Party has accepted the Freedom Movement and its members have participated in some Participation Party events; he said other political organizations should do the same.