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Over a month to Iran’s presidential vote, Zarif not yet engaging with Reformist bloc

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(L-R) Iranian Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, former Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (photo by Fars news agency)

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, has not yet engaged with the Reformist bloc that hopes to field him as its top candidate in the June 18 presidential election, a spokeswoman for the group says, increasing the likelihood of a Reformist run without him.

Speaking with ILNA on Sunday (May 9), the spokeswoman for Iran’s Reform Front, Azar Mansouri, said 11 of the 14 individuals whose names appeared on the “final” list of potential Reformist candidates had until then submitted their prospective presidential agendas to the General Assembly of the Front and responded to its questions. Foreign Minister Zarif, she said, was not among them.

The potential nominees who have presented plans are Mostafa Tajzadeh, Mahmoud Sadeghi, Masoud Pezeshkian, Mohammad Shariatmadari, Mohammad Sadr, Mohsen Hashemi, Sadeq Kharazi, Abbas Akhoundi, Mostafa Kavakebian, Shahindokht Molaverdi, and Zahra Shojaee.

Mansouri initially announced the 14-strong list of the Reformists’ potential contenders on May 2. Those were individuals who had been voted in by at least ten members of the Reform Front for further evaluation. The list, in addition to the aforementioned individuals, included Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri, and former Vice President Mohammad-Reza Aref.

According to Mansouri, Zarif garnered 37 votes to top the list, followed closely by Jahangiri, who gained 35 votes. Aref also received 21 votes to finish fifth.

Mansouri’s Sunday remarks, however, strengthened speculation that the Reformist camp’s efforts to persuade Zarif to run may have reached a dead end.

In her remarks, Mansouri also said discussions about the candidates were ongoing and the Assembly would announce its decision after the conclusion of the deliberations.

She also denied reports about Zarif’s presence at a meeting of the Assembly on Sunday.

According to Fars news agency, Zarif has already told the Reformists that, since he is not interested in running in the June 18 election, he will not submit any plans for the post.

However, the Reformists continue to pursue talks with the incumbent foreign minister to convince him to run, Fars reported on Sunday.

In recent years, Zarif has repeatedly said he is not interested in pursuing a presidential bid after President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure ends. Rouhani cannot run in the 2021 election, having already served two consecutive terms.

Also, on Sunday, the foreign minister attended a meeting of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee to respond to questions about a leaked audio file, which some of his critics have said was purposefully given away to polarize the society ahead of the poll.

Shahriar Heydari, the deputy chair of the committee, said Zarif asserted at the meeting that he had no plans whatsoever to run for president and insisted that his remarks in the audio were not intended to polarize the election atmosphere.

Jahangiri, who will emerge as the Reformists’ favorite if Zarif continues to stay out, once ran in Iran’s presidential election in 2017 to help Rouhani secure his second term in a tense race against two strong Principlist candidates, Ebrahim Raeisi and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. He withdrew in favor of Rouhani days before the election.

So far, Jahangiri has neither ruled out nor confirmed speculations about his presidential aspirations.

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