Reformists Decide to Support Rouhani in May Election

The Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, a major bloc representing the rival principlist camp, has released a shortlist of presidential nominees
Mohammad Reza Aref Mohammad Reza Aref

The Reformist Policymaking Council on Sunday picked incumbent President Hassan Rouhani as their candidate for the May 19 presidential poll, the same day a principlist group posing the most serious challenge to them released a shortlist of nominees.

Mohammad Reza Aref, the reformist body's chief, told reporters after a two-hour extraordinary meeting of the council that members had unanimously voted for Rouhani in an internal election.

Reformists had also backed Rouhani in the previous presidential votes, and the last-minute withdrawal of Aref, a candidate in 2013, played a crucial role in his victory, IRNA reported.

The president has been quiet on his candidacy in the upcoming polls, but a government official said late last month that Rouhani will seek to extend his first term.

Aref said that during the past two months, the council held several meetings with Rouhani and his representatives to discuss plans for the May election.

On Monday, members of the Hope parliamentary faction comprising reformist and pro-government lawmakers held a meeting with Rouhani.

Asked whether the camp will also field other candidates, Aref said the body is divided over the issue and they could not reach consensus in the Sunday meeting.

"A group believes we should not field other candidates. However, in contrast, some friends say the reformist camp is big and we should enter the race with several candidates but support only one on the voting day," he said.

Aref said the council will announce its position before the signing up period, April 11 to 15.

On Sunday, a spokesman for the pro-reform Democracy Party said its leader, Mostafa Kavakebian, will sign up for the presidential polls.

Also on Sunday, the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, a principlist bloc formed last December and expected to play a big role in the poll, released a statement and a shortlist of 14 candidates who earned most votes in an internal election in the body's first national assembly late last month.

The list includes Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the former police chief who has held the post of Tehran mayor for over a decade, Saeed Jalili, the former secretary of Supreme National Security Council and a former head of Iran's nuclear negotiating team, and Mohsen Rezaei, the former head of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and current secretary of Expediency Council.

The three have been defeated by Rouhani in the 2013 poll.

The statement said the list will be put up for a vote at the front's second national assembly, scheduled for April 6, to create a final five-member shortlist.

With just two months left to the May polls, several principlist figures have announced that they will register for the next presidential poll.

Rouhani's chances of winning the race are considered high, as none of his predecessors has failed in their reelection attempts to reach the limit of eight years of consecutive presidency.

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