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Khomeini's Grandson Possible Presidential Candidate?

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (C) and Khomeini's grandson Hassan Khomeini (L) pray inside the shrine of late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. FILE PHOTO
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (C) and Khomeini's grandson Hassan Khomeini (L) pray inside the shrine of late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. FILE PHOTO

Iranian media have recently been speculating about the possible nomination of Seyed Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini, in Iran's presidential election next spring.

"Reformists can consider Seyed Hassan Khomeini if they decide to run by the merit of their own identity rather than in coalition with any Principlist group," reformist Sharq newspaper wrote on Thursday.

The 47-year-old Seyed Hassan Khomeini is a cleric, seminary teacher, and the Custodian of Khomeini's Shrine. He is known as a reformist and has close relations with former President Mohammad Khatami.

Currently, the fractured reformist camp whose most prominent figures have no chance of being qualified for running in any elections, may be considering his nomination as their candidate for president, media say.

However, the hardliner establishment represented by the election watchdog, the Guardian Council, has rejected him once before as a candidate. In February 2016 when he decided to run for the Assembly of Experts the Council rejected him on the grounds that he had failed to take an exam to prove his religious qualifications (ijtihad/ejtehad), for the want of any other reason.

Seyed Hassan's religious qualifications have reportedly been confirmed by several grand ayatollahs – Shiite sources of emulation – including Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid-Khorasani, which will make the excuse to reject him again difficult for the Guardian Council if he can produce their written approval before running this time.

If not Hassan Khomeini, reformists may nominate Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif whose popularity has considerably diminished in comparison with 2015 when he negotiated the nuclear deal known as JCPOA with western powers. Other possible and probable candidates are Vice-President Es'haq Jahangiri and the Tehran City Council Chairman Mohsen Hashemi whose chances of approval by the Guardian Council are quite slim.

However, the reformist camp faces a much bigger problem than that. They have lost much of their political influence in the Iranian society which has always been forced to choose "between bad and worse" as Iranians quite often say at the time of elections. This time many voters appear to be determined not to concede to making that choice again.

Dragging voters to ballot boxes will be more than a feat for reformists even if they decided – and could reach a consensus among themselves -- to field a candidate of their own. Their supporters are more disillusioned than ever before, many say they will never vote again in elections that are far from fair and free.

In February most reformists kept clear of the parliamentary elections in protest to disqualification of their candidates by the Guardian Council. In Tehran, the bastion of reformists, only twenty percent of eligible voters went to the ballot boxes which is roughly the number of conservative voters.

"Reformists have the failed experience of resorting to a candidate who did not belong to their camp [Hassan Rouhani] to survive," conservative politician Hossein Kan'ani-Moqaddam was quoted by Young Journalists Club (YJC) as saying on June 10. He maintained that fielding Rouhani has alienated their supporters because once elected, he failed to deliver his campaign promises.

"They can't justify [the failure to make any impact through Rouhani who wasn't a reformist himself] to their supporters, so it is likely that they will nominate someone akin to [former President Mohammad] Khatami if they decide to run, someone such as Seyed Hassan Khomeini," he said.

Hassan Khomeini has not expressed any desire to run – until now at least.

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    Maryam Sinaiee

    Maryam Sinaiee is a British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National, who contributes to Radio Farda.