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Some Reformists Break Ranks, Endorse Hemmati In Iran Presidential Vote

Despite the refusal of the Reforms Front umbrella grouping to endorse any candidate in the June 18 presidential elections, some figures have broken ranks and endorsed Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former central bank governor.

On Monday, Hossein Karroubi, son of the former general-secretary of the Etemad-e Melli Party Mehdi Karroubi, said his father urged all Iranians to cast their votes for Hemmati "in defense of the republic and the institution of presidency."

Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, general secretary of the center-right Kargozaran-e Sazandegi (Executives of Construction), of which Hemmati is a member, has urged voting for the former central bank governor, although the party in May said it would not support any candidate as none it favored had been cleared to stand by the watchdog Guardian Council. Kargozaran would face expulsion from the Reforms Front if it endorsed Hemmati.

The Reforms Front, which coordinates several parties and groups, voted Monday against supporting Hemmati or Mohsen Mehralizadeh, a vice-president under the reformist Mohammad Khatami, in the controversial June 18 election. Reformist media reported June 15 that 23 out of the 46 members of the grouping’s general assembly had wanted to back Hemmati, but that this fell short of a two-thirds majority required for official endorsement.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who alongside Karroubi led the Green Movement that emerged after the disputed 2009 election, has not called for supporting Hemmati or Mehralizdeh, arguing that the important issue remained the Guardian Council’s management of the poll. "As a humble companion, I will stand alongside those who are tired of humiliating and stage-managed elections and will not surrender to decisions taken secretly and behind the scenes," Mousavi wrote in a statement published June 12.

While rooted in the pragmatic conservatism and economic liberalism of its founder Akbar Hashemi Rafanjani, Kargozaran has cooperated with the reformists since Iranian politics realigned with the election of Hassan Rouhani as president in 2013 on a platform of curbing the nuclear program as a price for easing international tensions.

Former president Mohammad Khatami has not expressed support for any candidate. Some principlists have chosen to interpret a letter from Khatami to the congress of Islamic Iran Youth Party (IIYP) on June 13 – in which he called for “responsibility to the motherland and people in these sensitive times" – as an endorsement of voting. The Telegram channel of Soldiers of the Soft War − a Revolutionary Guards-backed group of cyber activists − claimed June 13 that reformists were trying to drown Khatami's call for participation in the poll.

But some analysts have argued that most principlists want a low turn-out and that the reformists failure to back Hemmati could hand the presidency to Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi), widely considered the front-runner. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the principlist flagship Kayhan newspaper, has called on principlist candidates to stand down in favor of Raeesi to remove any danger of Hemmati forcing the poll to an unpredictable run-off ballot.

The Reforms Front backed Rouhani in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections and won most Tehran seats in the 2016 parliamentary election. But Rouhani’s popularity declined as his plans floundered under United States ‘maximum pressure,’ introduced by President Donald Trump on withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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