03/18/2009, 00.00
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Tehran dominated by uncertainty over upcoming elections

The moderate and reformist Khatami has withdrawn, supporting the pragmatic Musavi. He may be able to respond to the country's economic challenges better than Ahmadinejad.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the Iranian capital and in the entire country, there is widespread uncertainty over the elections next June 12, after the moderate Mohammed Khatami withdrew in favor of Hossein Musavi.

One month ago, Khatami's decision to participate in the presidential elections drew attention all over the world, recalling his two-term presidency from 1997-2005, open to dialogue with the United States and the Arab world. But on the evening of March 16, he withdrew from the competition to support Hossein Musavi, a "capable organizer," and to reduce the criticisms of those who "sow discord in the camp of the reformers."

Until now, in the camp of the moderates, the challengers to the ultraconservative current president Ahmadinejad were Khatami and former president of the Majlis (parliament) Mehdi Karroubi. But both run the risk of losing, given the influence of the conservatives and the support for Ahmadinejad from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to analysts, this prospect has driven the two to look to a moderate candidate, but one favorably viewed by some of the conservative fringes, which Musavi is.

Hossein Musavi, 67, was foreign minister at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, in 1980, and after this became prime minister. He was one of Khatami's advisers during his presidency. After retiring from politics, he continued his work as an architect and an academic. Many observers call him a pragmatist and a capable administrator. For this reason, it is likely that many voters will support him in the economic crisis that is paralyzing the country. Musavi is nonetheless a tenacious proponent of the Islamic system, and known as an anti-American, but he is more open to reform than Ahmadinejad. Precisely these characteristics, so close to Ahmadinejad, could favor him. In fact, although the current president enjoys the support of Khamenei, he does not have much support among the Shiite clergy or the Guardians of the Revolution (pasdaran), given his failures in the economy and foreign policy.

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