Iran’s supreme leader may have helped Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to win two presidential elections, but he is now bent on stopping his turbulent protege from levering his own man into the job.
Time was when even reformist presidents would defer to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the ultimate authority in the Islamic Republic’s clerical system. Ahmadinejad changed all that.
Ahmadinejad’s relentless quest for power and recognition has led him into direct confrontation with Khamenei, the man to whom he arguably owes his second term, if not his first.
And as Iran’s first non-clerical president since 1981, he has not stopped short of challenging the power of the clergy.
Even though he cannot stand for a third term, Ahmadinejad is widely seen as determined to extend his influence by backing his former chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie for president.
Khamenei loyalists accuse Mashaie of inspiring a ‘deviant’ trend that favors strong nationalism over clerical rule.
“So magical is the political prowess attributed to Mashaie and Ahmadinejad’s populist appeal that Mashaie’s prospective candidacy causes much concern in the Khamenei camp,” said Shaul Bakhash, professor at George Mason University in the United States, weighing prospects for the election in mid-June.
Voters, preoccupied by bread-and-butter issues in an economy battered by Western sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear program, may only have conservatives to choose from.
Reformists are unlikely to get a look in. Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who ran against Ahmadinejad in a 2009 election they denounced as rigged, languish under house arrest.
The reformist movement “has no organizational capacity and no recognized candidate right now,” said Scott Lucas of EA worldview, a news website that monitors Iranian media.
Read more at REUTERS.