June 2, 2009 2:46:38 am
Of all of Irans ethnic minorities,the Azeris are the most influential,counting many top officials of the Islamic Republic as theirs. While Mir Hossein Moussavi,President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads biggest challenger for the June 12 presidential election,is again a visible face of the Azeris,the states most powerful Azeri is none other than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself. They hail from the same picturesque town of Khameneh,near Tabriz,the capital of Irans East Azerbaijan province,and are even rumoured to be related. But when Moussavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989,steering the countrys battered economy through the Iran-Iraq war,Khamenei was president,and there was little love lost between the two. In fact,the post of prime minister was abolished after Moussavi,clearing the way for Irans all-powerful president.
So,now that Moussavi claims he had a positive meeting with the Ayatollah recently who is said to have emphasised his neutrality despite coming out strongly in favour of Ahmadinejad of late is Iran about to hand the principlists (the Ahmadinejad brand of hardliners) a defeat on June 12 to make way for a new reform government? Mohammad Khatami,the Islamic Republics most reformist president,who served from 1997 to 2005,withdrew his candidacy in favour of Moussavi,to consolidate the pro-reformist vote although another reformist,former Speaker Mahdi Karroubi refused to do so. And yet,theres talk that Moussavi is the man Khamenei used to keep out Khatami,who feels betrayed.
June 12 will show if any change at all is coming to Iran,even as Khatami supporters rue his decision to withdraw for a candidate who most appears to be neither conservative nor too obviously reformist. Moussavi has promised greater intellectual and creative freedom. Come mid-June,he may just be tested on that pledge.
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