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The challenger

Could Mir Hossein Moussavi be the man to change Iran?

Written by The Indian Express |
June 2, 2009 2:46:38 am

Of all of Iran’s ethnic minorities,the Azeris are the most influential,counting many top officials of the Islamic Republic as theirs. While Mir Hossein Moussavi,President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s biggest challenger for the June 12 presidential election,is again a visible face of the Azeris,the state’s 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 Iran’s East Azerbaijan province,and are even rumoured to be related. But when Moussavi was prime minister from 1981 to 1989,steering the country’s 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 Iran’s 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 Republic’s 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,there’s 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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