Iran's 2017 Election: Ahmadinejad’s Candidacy Signals the Regime's Weakening


At a time when public hatred in Iran nears a high point for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani due to his report card of deception and influential cleric Ebrahim Raisi for his role in massive killings and massacres, firebrand former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered his candidacy for Iran’s presidential election. Ahmadinejad’s return has furthered already dangerous divides among the Iranian regime’s senior ranks.

First and foremost, this sheds important light on the weakness of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and serves as a litmus test of the entire regime. Ahmadinejad claims to have remained loyal to his pledge to Khamenei to keep out of this election’s fiasco, and that his candidacy is merely aimed to support that of Hamid Baqai, a former vice president to Ahmadinejad known for his role in the notorious Ministry of Intelligence. However, the rendered disputes inside the regime prove otherwise.

“This was an act of suicide. He strapped a suicide belt around himself and entered the race… he registered despite the Supreme Leader’s specific recommendation, and this is insubordination,” said Kanani Moghadam, a member of Khamenei’s faction.

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Another Khamenei loyalist went a step further to accuse Ahmadinejad of staging a rebellion. Ahmadinejad’s candidacy in the elections “is a dangerous development and officials should look into this matter. In my opinion, this paves the path for many more disobediences,” said Gharavian, a conservative cleric.

Akrami, another member of Khamenei’s camp, called for Ahmadinejad’s prosecution.

“The judiciary must set all reservations aside and see into this case to officially determine to what extent he has lied and what complications he has caused for the country… From this day forward the public prosecutor’s office still enjoys the ability to see into this matter,” he threatened.

Even members of the so-called “moderate” Rouhani faction revealed their true nature in issuing hostile remarks.

“Ahmadinejad will pay an extremely heavy price for his [recent] actions,” said Sadegh Zibakalam, an influential figure in Rouhani’s camp.

Saeed Hajarian, a former Ministry of Intelligence deputy and a current Rouhani advisor, shed light on the power struggle among the so-called “principalists.”

“In these elections all parties have placed their effort to prevent any rifts. Despite all this, we are witnessing such a division while all of them originate from a single trend. When it comes down to slicing the cake, however, they have their disputes and it’s not clear until when such a division will continue among their ranks,” he explained.

The fact is that all of the Iranian regime’s factions will continue this power struggle over a larger share of power and Iran’s wealth, while remaining an undisputable aspect of this corrupt establishment.

The Associated Press described Ahmadinejad’s candidacy as capable of widening existing rifts among Iran’s factions. Last September, Khamenei specifically made it clear how he felt about this issue.

“A certain individual came to see me and… I told him you should not participate… I didn’t even say don’t participate. I said I don’t see it fit… the country will be polarized if you do,” he warned.

“This may now cause divides… one saying that certain individual said, one saying that certain individual didn’t say, another saying why weren’t these remarks made public? Now you have it. Our enemies are listening to take advantage. You have to be very careful,” the Supreme Leader added.

Khamenei’s camp also sought to take advantage of this development in their continued attacks against Rouhani.

“When an individual makes baseless promises to resolve issues in 100 days only to receive votes, it is obvious they have no understanding of how to administer and manage the country. They are then forced to resort to lies… the price of deviated individuals returning to politics is the result of this cabinet only talking the talk, and not walking the walk,” Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

In the meantime, the Kayhan daily, known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, ridiculed Rouhani for failing to deliver pledges based on the Iran nuclear deal.

“It has now been proven how all that brouhaha about foreign delegations coming and going opened no knots… no bank is willing to cooperate with us… Importing consumables, including even agricultural products, has literally crippled Iranian production. A large number of people are unemployed and huge investments have resulted in complete bankruptcies. Industrial complexes are closing down and many are working at half capacity,” the piece reads.

All said and done, this bring us to the conclusion that the Iranian regime in its entirety is facing a major dilemma, if not crisis. While the international community, especially the Obama administration, missed the opportunity to stand alongside the people of Iran in 2009 in their call for freedom, democracy and human rights, we are once again before a certain turning point in Iran’s modern history.

Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime’s support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program.

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