Ahmadinejad's mayoral successor bans the president's campaign posters

A behind-the-scenes campaign to bolster Mousavi candidacy gathers momentum.

By SABINA AMIDI, SPECIAL TO THE JERUSALEM POST
June 11, 2009 02:44
4 minute read.
Ahmadinejad's mayoral successor bans the president's campaign posters

ahmadinejad fist 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP)

 
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In the final days before the presidential elections on Friday, Teheranis have been gathering in the streets, attending "campaign parties," and, in many cases, displaying their support for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. This surge in open support for Mousavi's bid to defeat incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been facilitated in part by Ahmadinejad's successor as mayor of Teheran, Muhammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Ghalibaf, a conservative and an Iran-Iraq war hero, has loosened rules to allow late-night campaigning and has hung white banners in the capital as spaces for political graffiti, benefiting Mousavi's young supporters, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week. Now, in an open letter, Ghalibaf has called for the removal of all campaign posters promoting Ahmadinejad, saying his "lies" and "false accusations" are un-Islamic. Ahmadinejad has charged that former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the family of former parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri's are guilty of corruption, and has issued allegations of a US plot to kidnap him in Iraq - claims that have left many reformist lawmakers asserting misconduct. Rafsanjani, currently chairman of the Expediency Council - the power of which lies in its advisory role to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - has called the accusations illegal, unethical and contrary to Shari'a. On Wednesday in the capital, scores of men and women fearlessly danced, sang and stood on the roofs of their cars cheering for Mousavi, feats that not long ago would have gotten them 30 lashes from the Islamic police. Teheran hasn't witnessed such events since Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was in power. After 30 years of suffocation, young and old paraded, burning pictures of Ahmadinejad while blasting Persian pop music. "We have not given up hope on Mousavi," the crowds chanted. In sharp contrast, supporters of Ahmadinejad, including tens of thousands of Basiji militiamen, converged on the city's Grand Prayer Ground (Mosalla) and largest mosque on Wednesday, shouting slogans backing him and carrying the national flag. The Mousavi supporters moved their party elsewhere after pro-Ahmadinejad people ran over four women bearing green ribbons, the symbol of reform. Backers of former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi converged on the main squares and intersections and held debates with supporters of the other candidates, as they have been doing for several days. Karroubi, nicknamed the sheikh of reform, urged the people to follow the discussion carefully to know more about the candidates and their plans. In a recent interview, Karroubi said he would name former reformist lawmaker Jamileh Kadivar as a cabinet minister if he won, and not interfere in people's private lives. Many supporters of reform hope that if no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote on Friday, Karroubi will endorse Mousavi in the runoff a week later. "Karroubi is also a progressive candidate; he wants to focus on internal issues instead of sending all of our money out to the Arabs," a young woman attending a Mousavi parade said. "And his advocacy for a woman [Kadivar] in office [demonstrates that] Karroubi would be a big step for us," the young woman added. "With Karroubi's votes and Mousavi's combined, as well as the government's joint effort to remove Ahmadinejad, we are hoping it will affect the outcome of the elections." There is concerned talk in some circles of the possibility of violence being used against one of the leading reformist leaders. "The politicians are at each other's throats. We have not had political assassinations like they do in Lebanon, but we might be getting dangerously close," said a student passing out an election flyer. "If Ahmadinejad is elected, the country will slowly deteriorate," she said. The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that "reformists and conservatives within Iran's elite have joined forces to wage an unprecedented behind-the-scenes campaign to unseat... Ahmadinejad, worried that he is driving the country to the brink of collapse with populist economic policies and a confrontational stance toward the West." The paper reported that "the prominent figures have put their considerable efforts" behind Mousavi, who they believe has the best chance of defeating Ahmadinejad "and charting a new course for the country." "Those involved in the effort say they have already outmaneuvered Ahmadinejad and his allies, including Khamenei, and gained the upper hand within Iranian institutions and among voters. Most analysts say that Khamenei, who has publicly stressed that he has only one vote in the election, is quietly supporting Ahmadinejad, though he is also concerned with public sentiment and trying to appear above the competition," the report said. If there's "a brain behind the push against Ahmadinejad," the paper went on, it's Rafsanjani. "Several political insiders close to his camp said Rafsanjani brokered a deal with Khamenei several months ago in which he would encourage moderate former president Muhammad Khatami to drop out of the race in exchange for the supreme leader refraining from tilting the table in Ahmadinejad's favor during the electoral campaign," the report said. "Ahmadinejad himself publicly accused Rafsanjani of organizing the effort against him. Rafsanjani's supporters proudly acknowledge working against the president. But many others in the Iranian establishment took action to thwart the president's bid for a second term." Mousavi was originally a relatively unknown candidate. But he has surged rapidly, gaining strength among women and youths, and the Times report said most analysts now expected that he and the other two challengers would at least force a runoff if there were no cheating. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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