Monday, October 13, 2008
Reformist politician Mehdi Karrubi has announced the he will run for president in 2009. His announcement comes after months of speculation on whether he would run or step aside to open the way for another bid by former president Mohammad Khatami. Khatami has still not made an official decision regarding his candidacy; however, he has always suggested that he would only run if he was a "unity" candidate for the reformists.
I suggested earlier that Khatami's hesitancy was directly related to the question of Karrubi's candidacy. Being that, Khatami does not want to run against Karrubi and will only run if his leadership of the reformist faction is uncontested. With Karrubi now running, it's not clear if this cancels out a possible run by Khatami in 2009 or not. As I've said, I don' t think Khatami has any intention of running against his rival Karrubi, but if Karrubi should step aside in some behind-the-scenes deal a few months from now, we may yet see Khatami run again.
Regarding the hardliners, Fars reports that Majles Speaker Ali Larijani will not run as a candidate in 2009. Larijani, like Karrubi, has been a rumored candidate for over a year, and after he was elected Majles speaker many commentators suggested that he was in the best position to challenge Ahmadinejad next year. While he seems to have rejected that notion for now, I'm not putting much stock into it, as it's not yet clear how the hardliners will handle the 2009 presidential race.
It's hard to see Ahmadinejad being a unity candidate, as his economic policies alone have weakened his popularity and have made him an easy target. And while there has been much to do about Ayatollah Khamenei's apparent endorsement of Ahmadinjad's next term (telling Ahmadinejad to imagine being president for another term when formulating his policies) I'm not sold on the idea. Khamenei may indeed support Ahmadinejad in the next election, and he may convince others (such as Larijani) not to challenge him, however, Khamenei also has to weigh the interests of the marjas in Qom, the bazari merchants, and other powerful figures in making his decision. If there is a collective push from the principlist faction for a new candidate, then Khamenei will be hard-pressed to ignore it. That said, the leading principlist figures who could challenge Ahmadinejad in the next election--Ali Larijani, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf--have been quite on (or have rejected) their possible candidacies. I don't think this necessarily means anything at this point, other than there is not yet a consensus hardline candidate to challenge Ahmadinejad. The only thing that is certain at this point is that there's still a long way to go before we'll know exactly who will and who will not be running in 2009.
Of course, a lot will also depend on who's elected next month in the United States.
[Image: former Majles speaker, Mehdi Karrubi]