That means the man believed to be Ahmadinejad’s presidential pick, his former chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, might be on the ballot despite earlier speculation that he would be declared ineligible. Mashaei, like Ahmadinejad, has fallen out of favor with the ruling clerics and is viewed as an even stronger opponent of a powerful clergy.
Against that backdrop, Ahmadinejad is re-exerting efforts to extend presidential might within Iran’s power system by extending cash subsidies to the public and proposing a budget that imposes widespread government cuts but massively boosts funding to the executive branch. He has also helped his camp gain ground among so-called reformists by continuing to rely on nationalist rather than Islamist rhetoric, and he has fashioned himself as a whistleblower against corruption.
Opponents are showing unusual signs of worry.
“If, by Ahmadinejad’s pressures and threats, Mashaei is approved by the Guardian Council for candidacy, then we have to consider the revolution finished,” influential parliamentarian Ali Motahari, who is related by marriage to the powerful parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, said in an interview with the Ghanoon newspaper.
“Those who are known as the ‘deviant current’ have plans for the elections, and if we principlists do not unite, then we do not know who will run the country for the next eight years. One of the principlists must win, and we must not let the election go to a runoff,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister who is among the conservative “principlists” loyal to the concept of clerical rule, told the state-run Fars News Agency. They view Ahmadinejad and his allies as “deviators” from the ideas of the Iranian revolution.
Ahmadinejad recently vowed to continue “working until 9 a.m. on inauguration day.” Some analysts and rivals say he is seeking to stay relevant long after that, accusing him of devising a “Putin-Medvedev Plan” to install Mashaei for a term and then run again in 2017. Mashaei has said nothing about his political intentions, but he is making more public appearances, some alongside Ahmadinejad.