Iran's reformist ex-president endorses Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin walls in Moscow, Russia, March 28, 2017.

Opponents have accused the president of failing to ensure that ordinary Iranians benefited from the 2015 nuclear deal, while indicating they'll respect the accord.

Three other candidates - reformists Eshaq Jahangiri and Mostafa Hashemataba, and conservative Mostafa Mirsalim - are also standing in the election, though they are considered relatively marginal figures who may also withdraw before the vote. But sensitivity to allegations of fraud has risen since widespread unrest erupted over the disputed outcome of the 2009 presidential election in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, according to human rights groups.

Hamid Aboutalebi, Rouhani's deputy chief of staff, said in a tweet that most of Qalibaf's supporters would now vote for Rouhani as only those two candidates had managerial experience and a solid governing plan.

Raisi's challenge was boosted Monday by the withdrawal from the election contest of another Principilist, Muhammad Baqer Qalibaf, a retired general and now the mayor of Iran's capital, Tehran.

Some have speculated that Mr. Qalibaf could serve as a vice president in Mr. Raisi's administration.

It's unclear how much support Qalibaf enjoys today.

Qalibaf, 56, was running for president for the third time after being defeated in the 2005 and 2013 votes.

Iran is prone to daily quakes as it sits on many major fault lines. Raisi has been campaigning on that, proposing cash payments for the poor that proved popular in the past under Ahmadinejad. Both snubbed Rouhani, who himself is a cleric.

That past has anxious moderates and reformists in Iran.

He further expressed hope that Rouhani will win the election by a landslide so he could improve the country's future. The move reduces the risk of the anti-Rouhani vote being split.

Having now called on conservative voters to unite behind Raisi, Qalibaf could conceivably upset forecasts that Rouhani was on course for a comfortable victory.

  • Leroy Wright