RFL/RE – Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has withdrawn from Iran’s presidential race to back hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi.
In a May 15 statement published by Iranian media, Qalibaf said the decision was vital for the “preservation of the interests of the people, the revolution, and the country.”
Qalibaf called on his supporters to vote for Raisi on May 19.
“I ask all my supporters around the country to use all their capacity to help my brother Raisi win the election,” Qalibaf said in his statement.
Qalibaf, 56, was running for president for the third time after being defeated in the 2005 and 2013 votes.
He has accused incumbent President Hassan Rohani of mismanagement and favoring rich Iranians at the expense of the poor.
Meanwhile, Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karrubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011, has voiced support for Rohani in the vote.
“Based on my knowledge of Rohani, I will vote for him,” Karrubi was quoted as saying by the opposition Sahamnews, a website close to the pro-reform cleric, on May 15.
“I urge the dear people of Iran to participate in the election and vote for their desired candidate in order to prevent inflicting more damage on the foundation of the republic,” Karrubi was quoted as saying at a meeting with relatives.
Karrubi was put under house arrest in February 2011 after challenging the Iranian establishment over the disputed 2009 vote and highlighting human rights abuses. Opposition figure Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, university professor Zahra Rahnavard, were
placed under house arrest at the same time.
Rohani, a relative moderate, had promised in his 2013 campaign to release Karrubi, Musavi, and Rahnavard. But Rohani’s influence is limited and he has less power than Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Rohani’s supporters have called for the release of the opposition figures at many of his campaign events in recent days.