Principlists Unlikely to Support Rouhani's Reelection

Amir MohebbianAmir Mohebbian

A principlist figure said backing the incumbent president's reelection in the incoming May 19 presidential polls is not an option for principlists.

Amir Mohebbian also told ISNA on Saturday that some in the camp argue that Rouhani can be a good candidate for principlists, as he does not belong to the rival bloc of reformists and have had close ties with principlists.

"They believe Rouhani has a good chance of winning the race and principlists should not bet on the wrong horse," he said.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, all presidents have been reelected to another four-year term and reached the limit of eight consecutive years of presidency.

However, Mohebbian said the camp has decided to have its own candidate, although it does not count Rouhani as an adversary.

"Principlists seek to compete with Rouhani and provide people with another choice," he said.

"Supporting Rouhani means [we] approve his record before and after elections. But do we really endorse all of what his administration is doing? No. [If elected], will he feel committed to our policies? Will he coordinate his economic agenda and foreign policy with us?" Mohebbian asked rhetorically.

  Reformists' Only Choice

"Reformists are approving his record, but that's because they have no other choice."

They can't have a "100% reformist candidate" in the election for now and hope Rouhani can prepare the ground for their electoral victories in the future.

On the possible candidates of the principlist camp in the next election, the politician said some names have been raised, including Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Saeed Jalili and Ahmad Tavakkoli.

"These people have experienced electoral contests, fulfill requirements and appeal to voters," he said.

Qalibaf is a former police chief who rose to prominence as Tehran's mayor and has been holding the seat for over a decade, Jalili is the former secretary of Supreme National Security Council and previous head of Iran's negotiating team in nuclear talks with world powers and Tavakkoli is a veteran lawmaker. All three have participated in presidential campaigns and failed to become president.

Qalibaf and Jalili were running in the previous presidential votes but ranked second and third respectively, while Rouhani earned just above 50% of the votes and narrowly avoided a runoff.

Mohebbian said some in the camp maintain that although Qalibaf has been once defeated by Rouhani, he can be a good choice as he is more familiar to the public and has a long successful management record.

The analyst believes that the upcoming vote will not be an uncontested race and a runoff is possible.

"His victory in the 2013 elections was partly the result of divisions among principlists," he said, adding that principlists' consensus on one candidate could diminish the prospects of Rouhani's reelection.

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