Mohammad Reza Aref, as an “original reformist”, was expected to stay in the presidential race to the end. However, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s opinion and Rowhani having more votes than him led to a different fate for Aref, making him withdraw from the race despite his pledge.
Aref said his withdrwal from election was upon a request by Mohammad Khatami, the former reformist president under whom Aref was vice president. On Tuesday Khatami officially supported Rowhani in a statement.
But introducing Rowhani as the ultimate candidate for the reformist front in Iran, has surprised a lot of reformist observers. Since the revolution, Rowhani’s activities have never been appealing to the reformists, especially his activities during Khatami’s presidency.
He entered Iran’s parliament in 1981, and remained an MP for 5 rounds, being the deputy speaker in the fourth and fifth parliaments which were among the most fundamentalist parliaments in the Islamic Republic and in which the reformist were under much pressure.
He has been the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Iran’s Supreme National Security Council since its establishment.
Before being recognized as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Rowhani was and still is a member of the fundamentalist ” Combatant Clergy Association”, ( Jame’e-ye Rowhaniyat-e Mobarez) the main rival of the reformist Assembly of Combatant Clerics (majma’-e rowhāniyūn-e mobārez), the spiritual father of the reformist movement.
Rowhani and The July 1999 Unrest
During the 1999 unrest when the reformist students came to the streets and their protest turned to violence, Rowhani condemned the protests harshly in a speech on July 14, calling the reformist protesters “villains”.
“If the officials had not prohibited, our people and our Muslim, brave, and revolutionary youth would deal with these villains in the severest way and punish them for what they did.”
As the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Rowhani also signed the order for house arrest of Ayatollah Montazeri, the spiritual leader of the reformists.
Rowhani’s Controversial Education
Rowhani, 55, who is a member of both the Expediency Discernment Council of the System and the Assembly of Experts said in his campaign that he got his Ph D. in Constitutional Law, at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.
A British source, The Telegraph, however has questioned the claim.”A Glasgow Caledonian spokesman said the university was checking Mr Rowhani’s credentials but was unable to confirm them,” the Telegraph stated.
Rowhani’s campaign has not reacted to this claim yet.
Mr. Rowhani also studied in Qom’s religious Shia school and says he’s got the degree of diligence or “Ijtihad”. Ijtihad is considered as one of the highest religious levels among shias.
Why did Rowhani become the reformist’s ultimate candidate?
The most important question now is this: what happened that a non-reformist candidate is introduced as the reformist’s ultimate candidate? The most significant analysis points to a political bargain between Hashemi and Khatami to whose opinions Aref and Rowhani are faithful.
After the latest polls showed low votes for Rowhani and Aref compared to the fundamentalist candidates, Hashemi and Khatami agreed that one of the two candidates should quit in favor of the other. This compromise made Aref withdraw and Rowhani the reformist candidate.
Hashemi who was sure he would be disqualified by the Guardian Council entered the presidential race upon requests by Khatami and other reformists and bore all of the pressures as if the 80 years old politician only wanted to show his good will to Khatami. He did not even oppose to his disqualification and didn’t push for his re-qualification.
It however was a clever move by Hashemi as he expected Khatami to compensate for his sacrifice. Khatami responded to Hashemi’s political sacrifice by agreeing to introduce Rowhani as the ultimate candidate and make Aref withdraw.
Based on this, perhaps it can be said that Hassan Rowhani is Hashemi’s full-scale representative in the presidential election and this has resulted in some disputes among a group of reformists. They believe an original reformist like Aref should not have been sacrificed for Rowhani who is considered mostly as a fundamentalist.