Mohammad Khatami to run against AHmadinejad in Iran’s 2009 presidential elections

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 11:28
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After some speculations about Mohammad Khatami’s candidacy, the former Iranian president has made the announcement that he will run against the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the upcoming June 12, 2009 elections.

Mohammad Khatami’s presence in the elections now is seen as a critical juncture for the Islamic Republic and its relations with the outside world according to analysts.

“I strongly announce my candidacy in the election,” the cleric, 65, told reporters at the launch of a website for his political group, the Combatant Clergy Assn. “I had no hesitation from the very beginning.”

Iran’s political infrastructure is compartmentalized into theocracy and democracy. Regular elections are held for parliament candidates and presidency and all are vetted for loyalty by a powerful committee of jurists and clerics. But the ultimate power over military and security lies under the powerful leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

And in his speeches Mr. Khamenei was clearly more biased towards Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mohammad Khatami’s declaration came as Iran prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution this week.

If he is to take the next presidency of Iran then, as described by US President Barack Obama, he would ‘unclench the fist’ and improve Iran’s relations with U.S. Having said that, it would clearly mean that Iran will have to give up its nuclear ambitions. According to Iran it would develop Nuclear energy for civil purposes but it is suspected to do otherwise.

“The differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad are bigger than between Obama and McCain,” said Mustafa Tajzad, a former minister. “The results of the Iranian election will matter for the whole world.”

During his eight-year stint as President from 1997-2005, Mohammad Khatami’s agenda was not in compliance with the clerics. His reformist allies in Parliament were barred from running for re-election, dozens of his allies were jailed, and pro-democracy publications were shut down.

“We feel instinctively that people are reformists now, especially after such bad government by Ahmadinejad. Poor people who used to support him have turned against him,” said Muhammad Atrianfar, a close ally. He also is optimistic about Khatami’s win this time which he revealed in talks with the Guardian Council.

It is not yet clear if the Guardian Council, a committee of clerics which is close to the supreme leader, has allowed the participation of Khatami in the upcoming elections.

Some fear Mohammad Khatami may have harmed his chances by hesitating for so long over whether to throw his hat into the ring, reinforcing his image as a has-been.

Ali Motahari, a leading conservative member of Parliament and an outspoken critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad, said in an interview with the daily newspaper Etemad Melli in January 2009, that although Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be deep in his thinking but the conservative politicians who criticizes his policies will now unite behind him.

“We prefer a reformed Ahmadinejad to Mr. Khatami,” he told the newspaper.

“Mr. Khatami would not be an appropriate president and there might be riots again if he gets elected,” he warned, referring to the pro-democracy demonstrations during Mr. Khatami’s presidency.

Khatami’s biodata:

NAME — Mohammed Khatami.

AGE — 65.

EDUCATION — Bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Isfahan University; also attended seminary at Isfahan.

CURRENT JOB — Head of the Tehran-based Baran Foundation, a think tank that promotes domestic and global dialogue.

POLITICAL PAST — President of Iran, 1997-2005; Cabinet member, 1981-1991; legislator, 1980-81.

FAMILY — Wife, Zohreh Sadeghi; two daughters; son.

QUOTE — “People want freedom. The most important manifestation of freedom is the exercise of their sovereign right to determine their own destiny,” Khatami told supporters in March 2008 in response to a decision to bar many reformists from running in parliamentary elections.

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