Will Iran Have Reformist Vice President?


untitled The withdrawal of the only Reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, played a significant role in Hassan Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s presidential elections. Aref, who was vice president under Reformist Mohammad Khatami, withdrew in favor of Rouhani at the urging of Khatami, paving the way for a majority victory in the first round against conservative candidates who failed to unite. In his letter of congratulations to Rouhani, Khatami thanked Aref for playing a “prominent role” in Rouhani’s victory. The backing of Reformists such as Khatami, and also former president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, were key factors in Rouhani’s victory. Many Reformists felt that by supporting Rouhani they could achieve some of their by goals, such as freedom for political prisoners and space to re-start political activities. Despite Aref not being a well known Reformist and most accurately labeled as moderate, some Reformists are hopeful that Rouhani will appoint Aref as vice president. Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, the head of Rouhani’s campaign staff, praised Aref for withdrawing in favor of Rouhani. “Aref is a great man,” Nematzadeh said. “And his sacrifice and withdrawal are what caused the unity between Reformists and Moderates, which resulted in Rouhani receiving more than 50% of the votes.” Jaffar Tofighi, the head of Aref’s campaign staff, said that “Aref made a historical and determining decision to withdraw from the race, and today’s celebration and all future celebrations are indebted to his decision.” He continued, “When Aref decided to enter the presidential race, he consulted with all of his advisers, and we all felt that he shouldn’t participate in these elections. However, instead of us convincing him not to run in the elections, he convinced us of the necessity to participate.” “[Aref] believed that this was the last chance for Reformists to enter the political scene,” according to Tofighi, who added, “Aref spoke about the demands of the people and the Reformists and made those who did not believe in the elections enthusiastic about participating.” University of Tehran professor Sadegh Zibakalam said, “In relation to Aref, Rouhani has a moral duty to invite Aref to his cabinet. But there might be reasons that he will not use Aref as vice president, but he could use him as minister of science or at Tehran University.” Aref has a PhD in engineering from Stanford University. Zibakalam continued, “Even if Aref didn’t withdraw from the presidential race, he should still be eligible for the vice presidency. Therefore, if Aref refuses the vice presidency, Rouhani should ask Khatami and Rafsanjani to encourage Aref to work with the new administration.” Prominent Reformist politician Mohammad Reza Khatami, brother to former president Khatami, addressed the overall views of Reformists at a conference in Tehran. He said, “The plans that Rouhani had presented, both in content and speech, are positions that the Reformists support,” adding that “Whatever Reformists can do to help Rouhani implement his plans, they will.” In response to a reporter’s question that some don’t believe Rouhani to be a Reformist, Khatami said, “It doesn’t make a difference if Rouhani thinks of himself as a Reformist or not, because his plans are of high importance, and these plans are the original demands of the Reformists.” In regard to Rouhani’s cabinet, Khatami said, “What is important are his plans. Rouhani’s plans consist of various aspects and, of course, the political aspects of his plans are consistent with Reformism.” Khatami also said that in the field of foreign policy and social issues, Rouhani’s plans are similar to that of the Reformists.