Supporters of Reformist Mohammad Reza Aref Call For Coalition with Moderate Hassan Rouhani
With just a week to go before the first round of the Presidential election, moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani's campaign team have hinted strongly at a coalition between his camp and that of reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref.
Rouhani's campaign office said Thursday that there could be a possibility of such a move within the next days, and used social media to push the same message. Rouhani's Twitter account tweeted photographs of Aref supporters holding banners calling for a coalition.
Via careful use of social and traditional media, as well as via TV appearances and campaign documentary, Rouhani's campaign has crafted an image of a strong candidate who is close to the people and who appeals to a broad camp of voters. A new campaign website, featuring the key image Rouhani has used as his campaign symbol, shows photographs of supporters of all ages, including women.
Rouhani's campaign documentary, which aired this week --- and which his campaign published on the internet beforehand, to increase viewings and in case any of it was censored --- the moderate candidate talked about how the Islamic Republic was in a "cultural, economic and political winter" --- a quote from Persian poet Mehdi Akhavan-Sales.
While appealing to moderate conservatives --- for example by emphasizing the need for a strong Islamic Republic by talking Thursday about how Iran should use its soft power to counter military threats ---Rouhani's campaign of "Prudence and Hope" is also courting Reformist and even Green voters with comments about personal freedoms and censorship.
Rouhani is also trying to show that he has the backing of other leading political figures. In an announcement via Twitter about a conference Saturday in Tehran's Shiroudi stadium, Rouhani used a green-tinted photograph of himself, flanked by former Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani --- disqualified from standing the campaign --- and Mohammad Khatami.
However, if Rouhani --- and by extension the reformist camp --- want to make an impact in the June 14 vote, he will need to come to an agreement with Aref to avoid splitting the vote.
So will Aref step down in favor of Rouhani? And if so, how soon before the June 14 poll will that announcement come?
Speaking on the anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Imam Khomeini, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, warned that through the use of sanctions and negative press against the regime, the country’s enemies seek to decrease the number of voters in the upcoming presidential election. Khamenei stated that the Iranian people should work together for a massive turnout to crush the plots of the enemies.
PressTV is broadcasting --- and translating into English --- the final televised debate between the eight candidates here. EA will be providing a full review of the debate later today.
Amid growing rumors of a possible coalition between moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani and his reformist counterpart Mohammad-Reza Aref --- a move that would unite centrist and reformist voters and avoid a dilution of support for Rouhani --- Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards, reports that such a move could be announced as soon as Saturday.
Fars reports comments by Mohsen Mehralizadeh, vice president under the government of President Khatami, who said that Aref is the only reformist candidate in the Presidential race --- but that because Rouhani is a moderate, he could join Aref in a coalition. There had been considerable discussion on the matter with political leaders including former Presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani.
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar has stated that the Iranian election process is so unflawed that there is no possibility for interference --- and that candidates must accept the results, ISNA reports.
Speaking to students before Friday prayers, Najjar pointed to Article 6 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that the affairs of the country must be administered on the basis of elections.
Najjar added that the election created hope, vitality and social cohesion and ensured Iran's security against its enemies, who had tried to use sanctions to undermine the election.
Previously, the Revolutionary Guards and Basij have also made sure to emphasize in national media that they will not interfere in the June 14 election.
An interview with Hasan Rasooli, a deputy of reformist canidate Mohammad Reza Aref, points both to the move for an Aref coalition with moderate Hassan Rouhani and the obstacles to be cleared.
Rasooli accepted the electoral need for only one of the two men to remain on the ballot next Friday:“Reformists will gain a better result if Dr. Aref and Dr. Rouhani agree on a mechanism initiated by [former Presidents] Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami to determine a single candidate to remain in the race.
What's more, Rasooli said Khatami is trying to form the coalition.
However, Rasooli also set out lines for a deal from Rouhani's camp, saying that he expected the decision not to be affected by “unreal inductions”.
Rasooli continued, “If Mr. Rouhani and his campaigners have more cooperation, we can reach a better result for the coalition.
The deputy also held out the possibility that . Aref can perform better than Rouhani in next Friday's vote.
According to Iran’s Statistic Centre, inflation rates continue to hit the economy hard, reaching 31% during the month of Ordibehesht (21 April to 21 May). Meanwhile, the price of food and drink increased at the even higher rate of 49.6%.
The third, and final, televised debate before the presidential election will be broadcast live today at 1130 GMT on state broadcaster IRIB. The focus of the debate is expected to be on Iran’s foreign relations, particularly its nuclear programme. The first two debates discussed the eight candidates’ views on economic and cultural issues.