Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Khaleej Times Online: Rafsanjani To Run, Enemies of the Revolution Prepare to Attack

Khaleej Times Online: "‘Rafsanjani to stand in Iran presidential vote’
(Reuters)

10 May 2005
TEHRAN - Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative who favours closer ties with the West, will stand in Iran’s June 17 presidential elections, a race he is a strong favourite to win, close aides said on Tuesday.

“Rafsanjani will enter the race and in a few hours he will publish a statement to announce his candidacy,” Reza Soleimani, head of public relations at the Expediency Council arbitration body which Rafsanjani heads, told Reuters.

Close allies of the 70-year-old cleric, who held the presidency from 1989 to 1997, had earlier indicated Rafsanjani’s candidacy was in doubt because of opposition from hardliners in the Islamic state led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rafsanjani’s announcement will cheer many in Iran’s private sector and some foreign diplomats who fear a hardline conservative victory which would turn the clock back on Iran’s tentative economic liberalisation and foreign policy of detente.

“Rafsanjani will be better for the country as a whole,” said Ali Hamidpour, a computer engineer. “He has the experience and the power to deal with important issues like the nuclear issue and the economy.”

But a Rafsanjani victory is far from certain.

His last venture to the polls, in 2000 parliamentary elections, ended in failure and political opponents are queuing up to air allegations relating to corruption and human rights abuses dating from his period as president.

Rafsanjani’s main electoral challenge is expected to come from former police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Qalibaf, 43, who has emerged as the most popular candidate in the Islamic conservative camp, is a former Revolutionary Guards commander who modernised the police force and improved its image after taking over in 2000."