The Principlists bidding for the presidency in 2013 were born out of the right-leaning conservatives who are no longer as integrated as they were in the previous decades, particularly when reform-minded Mohammad Khatami was in power. The political and social developments of recent years have divided them into several other groups. They were all fully obedient to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and faithful to the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but they had differences of opinion regarding some political orientations. These differences prevented them from closing ranks in the run-up to the 2013 presidential election.
Principlist - Coalition of Three
This coalition brought together Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former longest-serving foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati who currently advises Ayatollah Khamenei on international affairs and outspoken lawmaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. This alliance, known as Coalition of Three, is the mainstream conservative group which, according to opinion polls, is more popular than others.
Haddad Adel, a former speaker of parliament, is a cultural figure and a humble promoter of poetry, literature and philosophy. A professor of philosophy at University of Tehran, Haddad Adel contributed to textbooks in the 1980s. His critics say Haddad Adel would not manage to run a country like Iran. Despite his reputation, he failed to win the position of Majlis Speaker.
Velayati, a medical doctor, served as foreign minister for 16 years until 1997. Even after the end of his official term in office, Velayati has not been marginalized in decision-makings. He has since served as senior advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei as well as representing the Leader in the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution and the Expediency Council.
In the early 1980s when Ayatollah Khamenei was serving as Iran’s president, Velayati was his favorite for prime minister. But due to opposition from the dominant political faction in Majlis, Velayati could not win the top executive post. Velayati holds friendly ties with other political leanings and is specifically close to influential cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani whom he served as foreign minister for eight years. In 2005, Velayati had registered to run for president, but he ruled himself out of the race when Rafsanjani also made a comeback bid.
Qalibaf, who is reportedly popular in Tehran and his hometown Mashhad in northeastern Iran, was a military commander during eight years of Iraqi imposed war against Iran (1980-1988). Due to his high qualifications, he was named commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Air Force after the end of the war. He went on to become state police chief. As police chief, he left a positive impression on Iranians to the extent that he decided to run for the president in 2005. However, he was defeated in the first round of the vote which saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani head into a runoff.
After that, Tehran City Council picked him as mayor of Tehran. Over the past eight years, Qalibaf has revived his popularity in Tehran thanks to his effective urban planning. This coalition is to choose one of its members with the highest approval rating as the candidate to succeed Ahmadinejad. Unconfirmed reports say Qalibaf is the shoo-in to represent this coalition.
Principlist - Coalition of Five
Five traditionalist conservatives formed another coalition.
- Manouchehr Mottaki, a former Foreign Minister and also a former Ambassador to Turkey and Japan.
- Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, head of the General Inspection Office of Iran, a former Interior Minister who has lengthy experience in intelligence and security affairs.
- Mohammad Reza Bahonar, known as the most influential MP who has clout within political and economic circles, was instrumental in the approval of Ahmadinejad’s ministerial nominees in Majlis. However, he tried to show his distance from Ahmadinejad.
- Yahya Ale Eshaq, head of Tehran Chamber of Commerce and a former minister of commerce, is trying to win the vote of Iranian businessman although a corporatist model does not have much credibility in Iran.
- Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabifard, vice speaker of Majlis, who was running for president because he said he felt responsible. The vast number of presidential hopefuls, who all claim to be running due to the burden of responsibility, caused Iranians to resort to sarcasm to advise people to feel less responsible and allow competent candidates to join the race.
Some analysts maintained that the Coalition of Five had no chance of winning the presidency. The coalition was pursuing individual and factional objectives. On the one hand, this coalition can close ranks with the Coalition of Three if they enter a tight race with Reformists and government affiliates, while on the other hand, all five of them intend to express themselves in a bid to win a foothold in the next administration.
Principlist - Perseverance Front
This front regroups political activists who were staunch supporters of Ahmadinejad up to 2010. The main members of this front are hardliner MPs Ruhollah Hosseinian, Mehdi Kouchakzadeh and Hamid Rasaei, former Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli and former Health Minister Kamran Baqeri-Lankarani.
Backed by influential cleric Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, this front dissociated itself from Ahmadinejad due to his unflinching support for his close associate Esfandiyar Rahim Mashaei whom conservatives accuse of leading a “deviant current”. This current is suspected of sparing no efforts to win the presidency in order to continue with the policies of Ahmadinejad.
The Perseverance Front won 100 out of 290 seats in Parliament in March 2012 election. This front has been taken to task by moderate Principlists due to its radical positions and connections with wealthy politicians like Mahsouli. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, former Energy Minister Parviz Fattah and government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham are other prominent members of this front.
Jalili and Fattah had no inclination for the presidency and Elham has lost any chance of election win due to his return to the government. Lankarani, who is also the Front’s spokesman, was likely to be nominated. However, opinion polls showed that the Perseverance Front does not have enough popularity in Iran.
Some Principlists were running on an independent ticket, the most famous of whom is Mohsen Rezaei, a former head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Serving as secretary of the Expediency Council, Rezaei had previously run for president and lost. Other independent hopefuls were former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian and incumbent Education Minister Hamid Reza Haji Babaei, who had no luck of winning the presidency.
The moderate Principlists, aim to hitch their wagon to the pro-government forces. They feel no threat from the side of hardliner Principlists, believing that the more their contrast with the hardliners, the higher their chance of success in the election. The pro-moderation atmosphere of politics and public opinion encourages moderate Principlists to distance themselves from the hardliners.
Principist candidates talked to Press TV in 2013 with regard to relations with Washington. For instance, Principlist candidate Mohammad Reza Bahonar said under Article 176 of the Iranian Constitution, only the State Expediency Council and the Leadership had the final say in all macro-economic and foreign policy matters and not the executive body. There were a few top Principalists who had formally announced their candidacy in early 2013. There would be vying for votes along with reformist and independent candidates.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|