Iran faces the prospect of an early presidential election after opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial leadership united behind calls for a vote to coincide with next year’s parliamentary polls.
Conservatives and reformists see elections next year for the Majles, the 290-seat parliament, as an opportunity to heal divisions opened by Mr Ahmadinejad’s rigged election victory in 2009.
“We believe the next presidential election will be held sooner than its legal time and that a clergy will be elected to have more humbleness towards the Supreme Leader,” said Ghodrat Alikhani, a prominent religious MP.
Mr Ahmadinejad counted on the support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to survive a popular revolt against the election that granted him a second term in 2009 but he has since fallen out of favour with the Supreme Leader. Iran has been fearful of the Arab Spring uprisings, particularly the one against its Syrian allies, and Ayatollah Khamenei has been making conciliatory remarks, calling for the crackdown that followed the 2009 election to be reined in and urging “an open, healthy and safe political climate in accordance with the constitution”.
Reformists have also backed an early presidential vote. Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who lost the leadership of the body that chooses the Supreme Leader after challenging the result of the election, said a new vote offered Iran a route out of political deadlock. “History has shown that if we fail to have the consent of the majority of our people we will have no secure future,” he said.