Iran’s media was split yesterday over which candidate to back in next month’s presidential election after a key moderate and a powerful government figure entered the fray.
The front pages of the reformist press were plastered with pictures of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate, while newspapers favoring the incumbent president touted government candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
The Iranian conservatives, who have fielded the most candidates, did not plump for anyone in particular, but warned that “the revolutionary current” faces a dual challenge from “deviationists,” a term used by ultra-conservatives for Mashaei, and “seditionists,” referring to Rafsanjani who enjoyed the backing of the reformist movements. Pro-reformist newspapers Etemad and Arman published photographs of Rafsanjani registering for the June 14 election on the top halves of their front pages.
The oft-banned reformist dailies Shargh and Bahar also dedicated front pages to Rafsanjani, president from 1989 until 1997. Bahar ran the headline: “An epic with Hashemi.”
The reformist Aftab daily suggested that other moderate and reformist candidates who registered for the election will forfeit in favor of Rafsanjani.
Meanwhile, newspapers that favor moderate candidates reported an advisory council of reformists met with reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami and vowed to back Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani, 78, currently chairs the Expediency Council, the highest political arbitration body, whose members are appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
State newspaper Iran, which is by law forbidden from campaigning for any candidate, headlined “all currents have come forward.”
Several newspapers that support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, carried a picture of Mashaei, the incumbent’s controversial aide and ex-chief of staff.
Khorshid (Sun) newspaper ran a front page picture of Mashaei alongside Ahmadinejad at the Interior Ministry registration center, headlining “Zendeh baad Bahar,” (Long Live Spring), the campaign chant for Mashaei.
The conservative newspapers resorted mostly to reporting that the registration was over and publishing around 40 names of known politicians.
Vatan Emrooz, a hard-line newspaper said in its editorial that, “one of the most important messages of the coming election is that Mashaei and Hashemi are one pole, the pole of anti-values (of the Islamic revolution) and the principalists are the opposing pole.”