Mohammad Khatami

Iranian reformists say they are planning to muster their resources around former president Mohammad Khatami and run in the presidential elections next year.

Mohammadreza Khabbaz, a reformist MP and member of the National Trust Party, told the Mehr News Agency on Wednesday: “If Khatami is placed at the centre of this movement, we can rebuild ourselves for the next elections and compete in the 2013 elections with a minimum number of candidates.”

Khabbaz said: “Currently the best personality available to the reformist movement is Mohammad Khatami; therefore, if Khatami agrees, the reformists can repair themselves for the coming presidential elections.”

He commented on Khatami’s decision to vote in the parliamentary elections last month, saying: “Voting in the last elections opened a path for the re-entry of reformists into the political arena; therefore, with the help of the system, we can work toward mounting a serious competition in the next presidential election.”

The last presidential elections triggered mass protests and then a widespread crackdown on protesters, who claimed the government had rigged the elections in order to deny the victory of reformist candidate MirHosein Mousavi and give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another term as president.

While the allegations of fraud in the elections were never followed up on, the reformists candidates continued to challenge the Ahmadinejad administration. Finally, in February of 2011, when they called for a mass demonstration in support of the Arab uprisings in the region, the reformist candidates were put under house arrest and remain there to this day.

In the meantime, the establishment accused the reformists of sedition, and many of their top figures were arrested and given long jail terms.

Mohammad Khatami, a chief reformist figure, has been calling for the release of all political prisoners, emphasizing that reformists, far from being seditious, are in fact supporters of the Islamic Republic system but concerned with reforming its shortcomings.

Many reformist groups boycotted the March parliamentary elections to protest the continued arrest of the opposition leaders and political prisoners, and also because they believe the elections could not be healthy and transparent under the current closed political atmosphere.

Mohammad Khatami drew fire from many reformist and opposition groups when, contrary to expectations, he voted in the elections, but the former president said that he had done so in order to “keep the reformist option on the table.”