Oscar-winner gives Iran’s Rouhani a showbiz endorsement ahead of presidential election
Iranian double Oscar-winning film director Asghar Farhadi has endorsed Hassan Rouhani for president, bolstering his campaign before Friday’s vote.
Farhadi, who won his second Oscar in February for The Salesman, threw his weight behind the moderate incumbent on Sunday, saying in a statement carried by the Isna news agency: “I will vote for Dr Rouhani and I hope that those who remain undecided would use their basic right and vote despite all the understandable reasons and conditions that they may have, for the fate of children in our homeland and future generations.”
Farhadi’s intervention came as Rouhani, who is allied with the reformists, travelled to Isfahan, Iran’s popular tourist destination, to speak to tens of thousands of supporters in the city’s historic Naqsh-e Jahan square. Rouhani’s main two conservative rivals, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, the Tehran mayor, and hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, were also visiting provincial cities.
Earlier in the day, Rouhani’s camp received another major boost after the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatamai, issued a video message urging the electorate to “once again” make him president. Khatami, who is facing restrictions in his movements and activities, has a huge influence among the Iranian electorate and his backing was crucial in Rouhani’s victory in 2013.
Hardliners, who are seeking a comeback to power, are pulling out all the stops to prevent Rouhani being re-elected. Both Ghalibaf and Raisi clashed with Rouhani during last Friday’s debate on the national television, exchanging personal jibes. That fight has now been taken to campaign rallies across the country.
“I’ve promised to create 5 million jobs. Several million families are in absolute poverty,” Ghalibaf said on Sunday in the southern city of Shiraz. Ghalibaf is leading “the 96 per cent movement”, a campaign concept he has developed in opposition to the perceived top 4 per cent wealthiest in the society. Raisi, who is also running on a campaign to improve the economy, said in the Golestan province: “Citizen’s right means the right of an unemployed to find job.”
Rouhani has been redoubling efforts this week in order to appeal to “grey” voters, the estimated 20 million Iranians who do not usually vote. The president has noticeably sharpened his tone in recent days, portraying his two main rivals as a continuation of politics under his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Hand in hand we destroyed walls and built bridges, we won’t allow them to destroy bridges and build walls,” Rouhnai said in Isfahan on Sunday. His supporters chanted: “We won’t return to the past.”
Rouhani also held a huge rally in Tehran’s Azadi stadium on Saturday packed with supporters of both sexes wearing green and violet wristbands in scenes reminiscent of the Green movement in 2009. Among the audience was Parvin Fahimi, the mother of Iranian protester Sohrab Arabi, who was killed in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential vote. The stadium occasionally erupted in chants in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, opposition leaders under house arrest.
Mostafa Tajzadeh, a close ally of Khatami, who served a number of years in jail following the 2009 election, was also at Rouhani’s rally in Tehran. A video has emerged of him in a recent gathering, in which he warns that Raisi has bigger ambitions than becoming a president. Tajzadeh was alluding to speculations that Raisi is being groomed to succeed Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“In this election, either Rouhani [will win], or if Raisi wins, he won’t be in office just for four years, he will be there for 40 years,” he said. “If we lose this moment, we won’t forgive ourselves in the future. We should redouble our efforts.”