With the race for Iran's June presidential election heating up, the candidature of the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)’s construction wing has stirred controversy in the Islamic Republic.
Saeed Mohammad, the former commander of the IRGC’s construction wing Khatam Al Anbiya, has been one of the talking points weeks before the country goes to polls to elect a new government.
Mohammad, who has emerged as the dark horse in the race, made the announcement of running in the polls, riding on the aggressive social media campaign his supporters launched months ago.
What has, however, momentarily derailed his campaign are remarks by a senior IRGC official, who in an interview with a local news agency last week criticized the young commander's plunge into electoral politics.
Yadollah Javani, the deputy head of IRGC's political affairs, accused Mohammad of "violations" and "non-compliance" with IRGC's guidelines, saying he had been relieved of his duties over his election bid.
According to the IRGC rule book, serving officials are prohibited from running for a political office, even though former officials can contest polls, as seen in previous years.
"The IRGC does not and will not support Saeed Mohammad or any other candidate in the election," Javani told semi-official Fars News Agency.
He said the IRGC is opposed to its members entering the political fray without going through mandatory "legal processes", obliquely referring to an edict passed by Iran’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini after the 1979 revolution.
People close to the former IRGC commander and the presidential contender have played down Javani’s remarks, saying Mohammad had resigned from the IRGC's construction wing in March to run for the presidency.
Following his resignation, the IRGC chief Gen. Mohammad Salami appointed him as a top adviser, an indication that he has indirect support of the corps for his election bid.
Mohammad’s election team issued a statement, terming Javani’s remarks as his "personal view", rather than as IRGC spokesman.
The statement said his remarks had "created public distrust" and undermined Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's appeal for "maximum participation" in elections.
Apparently taken aback by the tide of support in favor of Mohammad, including within the IRGC, Javani later said his remarks had been "misconstrued", and it referred only to Mohammad's "election behavior", which he said is "contrary to the rules of IRGC."
Although the controversy seems to have died down, for now, it has marked a rare occasion when a senior IRGC official has come out openly against a compatriot.
Mohammad’s plan to contest the election, according to experts, could upset the campaigns of other relatively stronger and seasoned political figures who are in the fray.
There has been speculation about Mohammad’s recent meetings with parliament speaker and top conservative figure, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, as well as senior members of the Guardian Council, fueling rumors that he could be the conservative candidate in the June polls.
"I have a difficult path ahead, but I will move forward firmly," he said in a video message last month, which was the first time he had publicly elicited interest in the election.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.