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Iran’s Radical Faction Consolidates Power In Bid To Retake The Presidency

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Iran’s ultra-conservative political faction is beginning to consolidate itself behind Ebrahim Raisi, a prodigy of the country’s supreme leader, in an attempt to retake the presidency in the upcoming election.

Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of the Iranian capital of Tehran, announced he would be dropping out of the presidential election on Monday and throwing his support behind Raisi. The move comes just four days before the election which could have major impacts on Iran’s foreign policy.

Qalibaf made his decision in order to form a “strong coalition” to oust Rouhani’s “inefficient and impotent” cabinet. Rouhani was elected after promising to spur economic growth in Iran by reengaging with the global community, specifically the West. The signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal), and the sanctions relief that came with it, was a fundamental part of his platform. The deal’s sanctions relief has apparently not been enough for some within Iranian politics, as Rouhani has been criticized for failing to make good on his promises.

“The radicals want to consolidate their votes for several reasons,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Raisi’s political capital as one of the likely candidates for the Supreme Leader position. Third, they hope they can win the election.”

Several analysts have predicted Rouhani will win the May 19 election, however, a recent poll shows the Iranian electorate believes he will lose. Iran’s hardliners, referred to as the “principlists,” are politically fractured, but Qalibaf’s exit may help unite the movement.

Qalibaf campaigned on improving the economy. Specifically, he pushed for tripling monthly cash handouts, ensuring a basic monthly salary for the registered unemployed and create five million jobs. Qalibaf’s support could help stoke interest in Raisi, who has been described as unknown and severely lacking in charisma.

Ghasseminejad believes that while Rouhani is a weak candidate, Raisi may be even weaker.

“Over the last 4 years, Rouhani has not been very successful, except in the nuclear case. However, Raisi is even a weaker candidate, he does not speak well, he is known for his ruthlessness in the 80s, he is inexperienced, and the middle-class Iranians are really afraid of him which pushes them to reluctantly vote for Rouhani,” said Ghasseminejad. “At this point, it is difficult to see Raisi winning the election without help from the IRGC and the Guardian Council in the form of voter fraud.”

Voter fraud is not out of the question, as Iran’s hardline principlists were accused of interfering in the second election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

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Tags : iran
Russ Read