- Title: FILE: Iran election offers choice, but little change
- Date: 13th June 2013
- Summary: MOSCOW, RUSSIA (FILE - FEBRUARY 18, 2005) (REUTERS) ***CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN SHAKING HANDS WITH ROHANI VARIOUS OF PUTIN, ROHANI AND OFFICIALS SEATED FOR MEETING
- Embargoed: 28th June 2013 21:13
- Location: Turkey, Syrian Arab Republic, Iran, Islamic Republic of, India, Kazakhstan
- Country: Turkey Syrian Arab Republic Kazakhstan Iran, Islamic Republic of India
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAC8PNK71VP84G90G1046L7QZSQ
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Friday's (June 14) presidential election in Iran is unlikely to bring significant change to the Islamic republic, whose supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ensured hardline candidates dominate the field. But the sole moderate could yet upset the race.
Although Khamenei says he backs no candidate, analysts say he is counting on one of three "Principlist" contenders - who profess utmost loyalty to the theocratic system - taking office.
World powers embroiled in talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme are looking for signs of a recalibration of its negotiating position after eight years of inflexibility under firey populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran's uncompromising nuclear negotiator Saed Jalili is prominent among the three "Principlist" hardliners competing for the post, while one of his predecessors, the more conciliatory Hassan Rohani, has been endorsed by reformists after moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was barred.
Jalili is centre stage in the Principlists' camp. He has taken an uncompromising stance in several rounds of negotiations with world powers and is supported by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, also backed by the Guards and respected by Tehran residents for his efficiency, is regarded as more moderate as is the third "Principlist" running, Khamenei's foreign affairs advisor Ali Akbar Velayati.
Velayati's lack of power base would limit his ability to challenge the leader if he became president, but also limits his appeal.
While intensifying nuclear-related sanctions on Iran have been a hot election topic, the other major global issue, its backing of President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon's Hezbollah in Syria's civil war, has not been raised by the six candidates.
Ahmadinejad, who gave repeated speeches seeming to call for the destruction of Israel, will not be missed in the West, but expectations for a radical change in direction are low.
The president's comparative lack of power within the Iranian system does not make the election insignificant however.
After publicly backing Ahmadinejad when protesters disputed his 2009 election, Khamenei fell out with him after he sought to use public rallies to challenge the leader's authority. Analysts say Khamenei wants a compliant president, but above all, no repeat of the 2009 unrest.
Reformists, led by former president Mohammad Khatami who won election landslides in 1997 and 2001, endorsed moderate cleric Rohani this week, adding to pressure on the hardliners to thin their field.
Rafsanjani has also endorsed Rohani, who was his national security advisor when he was president.
Rohani has openly criticised the pervasive security and vowed to improve Iran's relations with the outside world. Several members of Rohani's team and supporters were arrested after calls for the release of political prisoners were chanted at one of his election rallies.
To avoid the embarrassment of the 2009 protests, Iran's electoral authorities have left little to chance to ensure the ballot passes off quietly - from disqualifying high-profile candidates, to tight controls on campaigning and TV debates.
Iranians who yearn for real change in Iran, estimated by some analysts at up to two-thirds of the populace, have become disillusioned with politics since what they see as the election fix of 2009 and may not turn out to vote.
A big turnout would likely help Rohani and the reformist cause, but would also boost the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic's mix of religious rule backed by popular sovereignty.
A Rohani win, if permitted by Iran's electoral authorities, would lead to more tension between the president and supreme leader of the kind seen during the Khatami years and during Ahmadinejad's second term from 2005 - the inherent strain between the Islamic and the republic halves of Iran's system.
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