Iran Elections: Conservative Candidate and Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf Withdraws from Race

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On April 20, the Iranian Interior Ministry announced the final list of six candidates vetted by the Guardian Council to run for president.

London - Iran's vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri said on Tuesday he is dropping out from the May 19 presidential election to support his ally, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani.

Referring to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its Persian acronym, BARJAM, Rouhani said, "We established a bridge between Iran and the world with BARJAM".

"Not all of Qalibaf's supporters will move to Raisi, but he does provide some capacity for conservatives to unite", said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

On Monday, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, 55, dropped out of the election and endorsed hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who is believed to be a favorite of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top decision-maker.

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At a campaign appearance in the northwestern city of Zanjan yesterday, Rouhani also upbraided the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's elite and most powerful military and security force, suggesting it was drumming up support for Raisi even though he did not directly name the group. "And the economy, as in most elections, appears to be the issue of most concern to voters", conclude the firm's analysts Hasnain Malik and Stuart Culverhouse. A majority of Iranians express a favorable view of Rouhani (62 percent) and Ghalibaf (67 percent), while only a third of Iranians view Raisi favorably (32 percent), with 46 percent saying they don't know him.

There are five candidates remaining following Qalibaf's withdrawal, including Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, who supports Rouhani and whose candidacy has been aimed at uniting forces behind him, and fellow reformer Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, a former industry minister.

Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime's conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking "moderates" are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran's regime and the men who lead it [bold mine-DL].

Raisi, a former attorney general, serves as the head of the Imam Reza charity foundation, which manages a vast conglomerate of businesses and endowments in Iran. The average Iranian has yet to see benefits from the deal, making Rouhani vulnerable in his bid for another four-year term. Raisi has promised a return to the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

If both Ghalibaf and Raisi stay in the race, the already small hard-line base will split their votes among both candidates in the first round, possibly giving Rouhani an easy lead.

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