Iran’s former President Khatami urges reformists to back Rouhani

Former reformist Iranian President KIhatami has urged supporters once again to back Rouhani who is running for re-election as president this week.

Former reformist President Mohammed Khatami has once again asked supporters to back Mamoud Rouhani, who is seeking re-election as president but faces strong competition from an ultra-conservative contender.

Khatami – who is a figurehead for the republic’s reformists – urged Iranians to vote for the current president during Friday’s elections, which could see a second run-off if neither candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round.

In a video message, Khatami urged liberal Iranians to turn up to voting booths later this week and help block a conservative resurgence.

“We have started on a path with Rouhani and we have come half way. We have resolved some problems and bigger problems remain for us to resolve on this difficult path with him,” Khatami said in a video message released on social media.

“It is now your turn to renew your vote for our dear Rouhani in order to strengthen hope for a better future.”

Khatami’s image and name have been banned in Iran by the ultra-conservative security powers which still dominate the Iranian regime.

President Rouhani is seen as a moderate rather than a reformist, but was a key figure behind a nuclear deal with the West and other world powers.

This act gave centrists a brief popularity boost and looked set to open up the country’s economy to the outside world.

However, other sanctions which were subsequently slapped on Iran by the US – and a more hostile administration under Donald Trump – appear to have given conservatives more significance.

Rouhani faces five other – mostly conservative – challengers during Friday’s presidential race, and particularly strong competition from cleric and judge Ebrahim Raisi who has the backing of hardliners in the regime.

Khatami was Iran’s fifth president, serving between 1997 and 2005, bringing a brief boost for reformists who wanted the republic to ease its conservative social rules and strict authoritarian system of government.

He was a fierce critic of conservative former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ushered in a new era of confrontation with the West, particularly over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Khatami made another plea to reformists earlier this month to back Rouhani via a message on his website, circumventing the conservative’s gag on the former president.