Ghalibaf withdraws presidential bid, endorses Raisi

May 15, 2017

TEHRAN – Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf withdrew his presidential candidacy on Monday in favor of Ebrahim Raisi, hoping he would unseat incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

According to the Tasnim news agency, the decision was made after the central council of the Popular Front of the Islamic Revolution held a meeting to assess the situation ahead of the Friday election.

At the meeting, both Raisi and Ghalibaf announced their readiness to withdraw in favor of one another, however at the end Ghalibaf gave up the bid for the presidential post and insisted that he will use all his energy for the victory of Raisi in the race to unseat the “incapable” sitting government, the news agency stated.

In a statement issued on Monday, Ghalibaf called on his loyalists to vote for Raisi, underlining that a victory for Raisi is vital for “the preservation of the interests of the people, the revolution and the country.”

“I want all my supporters across the country to use their capacity for the success of our dear brother Hojatoleslam Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi,” part of his statement said.

As a result of Ghalibaf’s withdrawal, a second round run-off becomes much less likely, since polls show the May 19 election would be a two-man race between Raisi and Rouhani.

However, still three other candidates are remaining, one of whom is principlist politician Mostafa Mirsalim, and the other two are pro-reform Mostafa Hashemitaba and Es’haq Jahangiri, Jahangiri, the incumbent vice president, is expected to drop out of the race in the coming days in support of Rouhani, the incumbent president. 

Hashemitaba, though backing the performance of the Rouhani administration, has ruled out the possibility of quitting the race.

Ghalibaf’s withdrawal came as a surprise to many, as the Tehran mayor criticized Jahangiri for being a “cover candidate” for Rouhani and railed against him for not intending to remain till the end. 

In the last presidential race in 2013, Rouhani won the election in a landslide against five mostly conservative candidates. Ghalibaf came a distant second to him with 16.5% of the vote.

During the past several weeks, Raisi and Ghalibaf repeatedly attacked the Rouhani administration for its inept handling of the economy and for failing to deliver what he had promised.

Rouhani, a self-described moderate, is endorsed by the reformists, with former President Mohammad Khatami calling on his supporters to vote for him via a video posted online on Sunday.

“We will vote for Rouhani for freedom of thought, reasoning in dialog, abiding by law in practice, advocating civil rights, and implementation of social and economic justice,” Khatami said in the video.

On the other side, Raisi has the support of principlists and the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers.

On April 6, he won the highest number of votes in a closed primary election held by the Popular Front of the Islamic Revolution Forces. In the election, which was the second of its kind, Ghalibaf came fourth among five potential candidates. 

The front, which is a coalition of several principlist groups and is known as Jamna in Persian, said on May 1 that it would announce its final decision on its favored candidate after the last round of presidential election, which was held on May 12.

MH/PA

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