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DUBAI: The former commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards yesterday announced he would run in a sensitive presidential election set to be dominated by conservatives vying to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mohsen Rezaie stood in the last tumultuous 2009 election, finishing third, and made a complaint that Ahmadinejad’s re-election had been rigged, before withdrawing the allegations days later. Mass street protests against the disputed results rocked Tehran and other cities in 2009, only to be crushed by security forces and militia.
Rezaie was commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for 16 years until 1997. He was subsequently appointed secretary of the Expediency Council, a body that advises Iran’s most powerful man, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
To prevent the next president from challenging Khamenei’s authority, his close advisers are looking to unite around a single hardline candidate to minimise chances of the virulent divisions between leading conservatives that analysts say could open the way to further election disputes.
Analysts say Rezaie’s candidacy may complicate the picture and draw support away from a “unity” candidate, yet to be decided.
“Currently the main problem facing people is the economic issue and economic development should be accomplished as well as political development,” Fars news agency quoted Rezaie as saying after announcing his candidacy in Divandare in Kurdistan province, in eastern Iran.
“Today income is the people’s basis of life and we must implement plans to reduce the cost of living and raise their income levels.” He had already indicated his intention to be a candidate. “In the last election Rezaie set his stall out quite clearly, was by far the most effective in dismantling Ahmadinejad during the debates,” said Iran analyst Ali Ansari of Scotland’s St Andrew’s University.
“Initially he alleged fraud until he was persuaded that the threat to the system was so great it was best if he did not stoke the fires further,” he said. “While he has kept his powder dry I think he is a dark horse that needs to be watched.”
Rezaie criticised authorities for their handling of the 2009 election and the demonstrations that followed it, saying the Islamic Republic could face collapse unless it embraced change.
As Iran remains locked in a stand-off with world powers over its nuclear programme, rifts have emerged between Ahmadinejad and rivals loyal to Khamenei.