Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Iran Ex-PM Rules Himself Out of Presidential Race

International News Article | Reuters.com: "Iran Ex-PM Rules Himself Out of Presidential Race
Tue Oct 12, 2004 03:23 PM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's former war-time Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi on Tuesday ruled himself out of next year's presidential race, dashing reformist hopes of a big-name candidate to vie for outgoing President Mohammad Khatami's job.
Jostling for the presidential race has started early, with conservatives eager to complete a political comeback that has seen them defeat pro-reform Khatami's allies in local council and parliamentary votes in 2003 and 2004.

Khatami's second term ends in mid-2005. He cannot stand for a third consecutive term.

Eager to avert a conservative monopoly on power reformist parties had unanimously backed Mousavi, who was prime minister during Iran's bitter 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

"Unfortunately, Mirhossein Mousavi ... in today's meeting, while thanking all groups and officials who supported him, announced that he will not accept the candidacy for the next presidential elections," former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi told the ISNA student news agency.

Karroubi was part of a delegation from the pro-reform League of Combatant Clerics party, including Khatami himself, who met Mousavi on Tuesday to try to persuade him to run.

Mousavi, 63, was prime minister from 1981 until the post was scrapped in 1989. Many Iranians hold a nostalgic view of his term in office, when prices were lower and social problems less acute despite privations caused by the war.

A respected figure who has remained largely aloof from politics since 1989, Mousavi had until Tuesday given no indication of whether he would run for president or not.

His withdrawal from the race is a further blow to the beleaguered reformist camp and increases the likelihood that Iran's next president will cement the shift to the right of the Islamic state's domestic political scene.

A conservative victory in the presidential vote would mean right-wing officials fiercely loyal to the system of clerical rule would control all elected and non-elected branches of power, including the armed forces and judiciary.

Names touted for the conservative ticket include former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former state television head Ali Larijani, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad."

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