Principlist Presidential Candidates Advised to Play by the Rules

Principlist Presidential Candidates Advised to Play by the RulesPrinciplist Presidential Candidates Advised to Play by the Rules

A senior principlist figure urged the two leading candidates of the camp preparing for the May 19 presidential marathon, Ebrahim Raeisi and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, to be bound by a principlist decision that one of them should withdraw from the race, warning that doing otherwise would split principlist votes and make both of them losers.

Raeisi, 56, is a former prosecutor general and current custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), and Qalibaf, 55, is a former police chief and incumbent Tehran mayor.

"It is assumed that one candidate will step aside in favor of the other. If not, principlists would suffer the consequences. So the hopefuls are expected to play by the rules and act responsibly," Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told ICANA on Wednesday.

Both principlist hopefuls were included in a shortlist of candidates published on April 6 by the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces.

The front was founded late December to unite principlists behind only one contender, out of concerns about the repeat of the bitter experience of the 2013 race, when five principlists diluted their support by running against each other. Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, the spokesperson for PFIRF, announced last week that their final presidential nominee will be announced by May 10.

She also pointed to a different scenario, saying the front may support two final nominees, "in case we find out it will be a two-round vote".

If no candidate garners more than 50% of the votes, a runoff will be held on May 26 between the two top vote-getters.

With the voting day less than three weeks away, neither Raeisi nor Qalibaf have publicly confirmed they will abide by PFIRF's final decision.

  Tough Job for Principlists

Anyway, rivals of the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who won the 2013 race in the first round only by a wafer-thin margin, seem to have a tough job in forging a real challenge to his reelection bid.

Rouhani, 68, is widely seen as the contender with the biggest chances of victory, since every previous Iranian president who finished his first term has been reelected.

Moreover, the reformist camp has unanimously thrown its weight behind the chief executive's reelection bid.

Others joining the three candidates on the ballot are Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, a 60-year-old former lawmaker and industries minister, Mostafa Hashemitaba, a 71-year-old former vice president, and Mostafa Mirsalim, a 70-year-old former culture and Islamic guidance minister.

Pro-reform Hashemitaba and principlist-minded Mirsalim are low-profile contenders, and Jahangiri has announced that this candidacy is tactical and he intends to eventually drop out in favor of Rouhani.

The campaign season for the six hopefuls cleared to run for president by the election watchdog Guardians Council was started last Friday. It ends 24 hours before the May 19 election. Iranian elections have hardly been predictable and the candidates' strong performance during the campaigning period, particularly in TV debates, can easily sway fence-sitting voters.

Last Thursday's announcement by the Interior Ministry, the election organizer, that there would be no live debates for this presidential race triggered criticism of the electorate and the candidates themselves, prompting a reversal of the earlier decision to broadcast the debates pre-recorded on Sunday.


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