Iran’s ex-president Rouhani endorses reformist Pezeshkian for June 28 election

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Iran’s former president Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday threw his weight behind reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian, two days ahead of a snap presidential vote to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi.

Rouhani, a moderate politician who preceded Raisi in office, said Pezeshkian – the only reformist on the ballot – could “remove the shadow of sanctions” that have battered the Iranian economy since the collapse of a landmark nuclear deal.

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“On Friday, we should vote for someone who is determined to remove the shadow of sanctions from the Iranian people,” Rouhani said in a video message published by the reformist Shargh daily, praising Pezeshkian’s “honesty” and “loyalty.”

The election was brought forward by Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash last month.

Rouhani, whose government had negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other powers, said Pezeshkian appeared “determined to revive” the accord which fell through after Washington unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018, reimposing biting sanctions.

Diplomatic efforts have since faltered to revive the deal, which aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear activity in return for sanctions relief.

Pezeshkian, 69, is an outspoken heart surgeon who has represented the northwestern city of Tabriz in parliament since 2008.

He is among the leading contenders in Iran’s six-way presidential race along with conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Reformist figures including former president Mohammad Khatami and ex-foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have endorsed Pezeshkian’s candidacy.

On Tuesday, Khatami said the upcoming vote was “an opportunity” for “change,” with Pezeshkian a “righteous, justice-seeking, anti-corruption and meritocratic” leader.

Reformists remain faithful to Iran’s theocratic rule but advocate detente with the West, economic reform, social liberalization and political pluralism. Their electoral strength remains uncertain as some voters believe they failed to deliver greater freedoms during their past tenures in power.

Unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, in custody in 2022, exposed a widening divide between reformists and their power base, after reformist leaders distanced themselves from demonstrators who demanded a “regime change.”

Other candidates in the running include conservative Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani, cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and incumbent vice president Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, the ultraconservative head of the Martyrs’ Foundation.

With agencies

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