Photo: Supporter with picture of moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani

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On Tuesday, after days of bargaining and manoeuvres — notably the interventions of former Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani — the announcements finally came: moderates and reformists would unite behind a single candidate, Hassan Rouhani, in Friday’s first round of the Iranian Presidential election.

Rouhani, a senior official in the Expediency Council and former lead nuclear negotiator, was given a clear run when reformist Mohammad Reza Aref withdrew following deliberations of a 10-person committee.

Now the bigger challenge, 48 hours before the ballot: can the moderate-reformist coalition, facing three leading principlists who are close to the Supreme Leader, mobilise enough support to put Rouhani into the two-candidate run-off on 21 June?

Four years ago, an unexpected surge did just that for Mir Hossein Mousavi, before he lost to President Ahmadinejad amid claims of regime manipulation of the final vote. However, there is a key difference in 2013, as an EA correspondent in Iran explains:

There is a lack of excitement, especially compared to the last election.

Many people are still not ready, after the experience of 2009, to put all their eggs in Rohani’s basket. He is still not identified as a reformist candidate, and he did not jump to the rescue of Mousavi and [reformist and 2009 candidate] Mehdi Karroubi when they were put under house arrest in 2011.

Undoubtedly, Rafsanjani’s and Khatami’s interventions will persuade some people, but how many?

EA WorldView believes that Rouhani may make it into the run-off — if the first-round vote is not manipulated to block him — alongside Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf.

However, he then faces the biggest challenge of all. Given that the three leading principlists — Qalibaf, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Saeed Jalili — are likely to poll more than 50% between them in the first round, how can Rouhani find a majority to win the final vote?

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Video: Rouhani Supporters At Rallies in Mashhad and Tehran’s Vanak Square On Wednesday

Chanting “Political Prisoners Must Be Freed” in Mashhad:

Vanak Square:

Video: Rouhani Supporters Break into a Protest Song in Qazvin

Photo: Rouhani Supporters in Vanak Square, Tehran

As the Presidential election campaign draws to a close Wednesday night ahead of voting on Friday — campaigning is not allowed on Thursday, the day before the vote — supporters of candidates are holding rallies in major squares and streets in Tehran.

Conservative website Fararu notes a gathering for moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani in Vanak Square on Wednesday.

Fararu said that over 5,000 supporters chanted various slogans including:”Viva Hashemi [Rafsanjani]”, “Long Live Rouhani”, “Salam bar Khatami”,”Peace Be Upon Rouhani”, “Our Vote Is A Word”, “Reforms and Peace”, and “Viva [Mohammad-Reza] Aref”.

Rouhani’s campaign team uploaded this photograph of the supporters to Instagram:

supporter rally in tehran rouhani

Rouhani also tweeted about the rally:

Fars News reported that supporters of both Rouhani and his rival, Tehran mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, also gathered at Tehran’s Valiasr Square.

Opposition Site Pokes Fun At Jalili


Photo credit: Digarban

Opposition website Digarban pokes fun at Presidential candidate and Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili with this photograph of him on the campaign trail in Gorgan province today drinking what appears to be a Sundis — the cheap soft drink reportedly given to those attending government rallies.

Rouhani Courts Sunni Vote In Sistan-Baluchestan

In a bid to win popularity among Iran’s ethnic Sunni population in the southeastern Sistan Baluchestan province, moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani has said that the next administration must develop the region.

The largely-Sunni province is Iran’s most underdeveloped and desolate, and has seen a surge over the past year in Sunni separatist movements, some of which claimed responsibility for violent and even deadly attacks on Iranian security personnel.

Fars News — close to the Revolutionary Guards — quoted Rouhani as saying that the province should be united.

Speaking to a gathering of people from the province, the moderate candidate said the province needed “unity, harmony and development”.

On Wednesday, Rouhani’s campaign team used his official Twitter account to make the following comments about Sistan-Baluchistan:

Ministry of Intelligence Denies Role in Disqualification of Rafsanjani

The spokesman for the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, has denied claims by Hashemi Rafsanjani that an official from the Ministry of Intelligence intervened when the Council barred the former President from running.

Kadkhodaei called the decisions on candidates such as Rafsanjani “expert” and “legal”.

Rafsanjani claimed on Tuesday that he was originally approved to the run in the election by the Guardian Council, but that “a security official attended the Guardian Council meeting and intervened in his qualification”.

Oil Watch: Exports Rebound from Historic Low

Iran’s oil exports rose 66% in May from a historic low a month earlier, according to the International Energy Agency said.

May’s exports were 1.39 million barrels per day, compared with 835,000 bpd in April. Much of the rise was due to Iran’s largest customer, China, which imported 715,000 bpd of Iranian crude last month — almost double the 370,000 barrels bpd in April when port congestion delayed deliveries.

Other industry sources put Iran’s exports in April at a historic low for the Islamic Republic of 741,000 bpd.

More Chants for Detained Opposition Leader Mousavi

The crowd at Tuesday’s rally in Shiraz for candidate Hassan Rouhani chants for Mir Hossein Mousavi, “Ya Hossein! Mir Hossein!”

Mousavi, who lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the disputed 2009 election, has been under strict house arrest since February 2011.

Reformist Aref “Did Not Withdraw in Favour of Rouhani”

More evidence that reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref reluctantly, and possibly with some bitterness, pulled out of the Presidential race….

The head of Aref’s campaign reiterated that Aref did not withdraw in favour of reformist Hassan Rouhani

Meanwhile, Rowhani told the reformist daily Shargh that the Guardian Council met with him before it disqualified Hashemi Rafsanjani, assessing whether the former President would withdraw from the contest.

Supreme Leader Calls for Full Participation in Election, Warns of “Sedition”

In a speech this morning, the Supreme Leader has called on all eligible Iranian to vote in Friday’s Presidential election and has denounced those who protested after the last vote in 2009:

Perhaps indicating concern, he even appealed to those who may not be motiviated by adherence to the Islamic Republic, calling on them to vote for “Iran”:

Video: Khatami Endorses Rouhani

The election campaign of moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani has released an English-subtitled video of former President Mohammad Khatami talking about the resignation of reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref.

The outcome has been that only one of these gentlemen remains in the race. I think that Mr. Aref, with his worthiness, did a great thing, a great sacrifice. And now, I think that with the presence of Mr Rouhani in the race, all of us must put laxity aside and wholeheartedly enter the scene and participate in the election. My message to my dear people and especially to reformists, and to those who seek change, is that God willing we’ll have a good election.

Claim: Central Bank Facing Currency Crisis?

The opposition Iran Green Voice website claims, from a Central Bank memo, that officials are trying to deal with a currency crisis by prohibiting transfers to Iran’s Free Trade Areas.

Reports: Members of Revolutionary Guards Killed “Defending Shrine” in Syria

Iranian media are reporting the deaths of several members of the Islamic Revoutionary Guards Corps in the Syrian conflict.

Ali Asqar Shanaei, Mehdi Khorasani, and Hossein Attari are said to have died while supporting the “defenders of the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine” in south Damascus.

Last month, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, justified the involvement of his fighters in the Syrian conflict by invoking the defence of the shrine. Hezbollah’s men subsequently played a key part in the Syrian regime’s capture of the strategic town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border.

The Revolutionary Guards have said they are providing logistical and advisory support for Damascus, but have denied the involvement of their troops in fighting.

(hat tip to Iran Tracker)

Conservative Worry About Divided Vote Among Their Candidates

As moderates and reformists try to mobilise behind Hassan Rouhani, some conservatives are fretting that they are dividing their votes between three leading challengers — Mohammad Baqer-Qalibaf, Ali Akbar Velayati, and Saeed Jalili.

Seyyed Reza Taghavi, the head of the Policymaking Council for Friday Prayer Leaders, said on Tuesday that both the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom and the Combatant Clergy Association “tried so hard to unite these conservative parties”:

We did not support any one candidate; we simply tried to promote unity between the different groups. We tried to prevent a dispersion of the votes among these candidates.

More than 60%, we were successful in this way. Most of the candidates who wanted to take part in the elections changed their minds and did not register to enter the race.

Asr-e Iran cites

According to Asr Iran website, Mojtaba Zolnour, formerly the Supreme Leader’s deputy representative to the Revolutionary Guards, warned:

One of the reasons why the conservatives are not ready to get behind one
candidate is because they are not worried. They think even if the reformists put forth one candidate, they cannot get enough votes to win the election.

Political logic tells us, we have to minimize and eliminate the danger.
If the [conservative] candidates care about the expediency and interests
of the regime, they should unite.

The conservative challenge to get two of their men into the run-off may be further complicated by the involvement of Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, in the first round.