Three banned politicians are having an outsized impact on Iran’s presidential election – with their legacies benefiting President Hassan Rouhani. The three – former President Mohammad Khatami, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former Parliamentary Speaker Mehdi Karroubi – are all reformists. Khatami has been banned from media appearances and travel. Mousavi and Karroubi, who both ran for president in 2009, have been under house arrest since 2011 for supporting the Green Movement protests two years earlier.
The three reformists, however, have not faded from public conscious. Their names have been shouted at several Rouhani rallies, sometimes with greater enthusiasm than they chanted Rouhani’s name. Rouhani released a campaign ad that included the Mousavi and Karroubi chants, but state media cut the scene from the video. The authorities view Mousavi and Karroubi as “seditionists.”
Rouhani rally felt more like a rally for Mousavi, crowd continually chanting Mir Hossein, Mir Hossein, who is currently under house arrest. pic.twitter.com/CXL16hu1Yy— Ali Arouzi (@aliarouzi) May 9, 2017
During the campaign, Rouhani has dared to challenge other branches of government over the open-ended detention of Mousavi and Karroubi. "Why have you confined to their houses our dear personalities who were of service to this nation... who showed Iran's real image to the world? Under what law?" Rouhani asked at a May 8 rally. "We will go to the ballot boxes on May 19 to bring back our noble men to society.” Rouhani also had promised to win the release of Mousavi and Karroubi in his 2013 campaign, but was unsuccessful.
All three leaders have endorsed Rouhani. “We started on a path with Mr. Rouhani and we are at the halfway point,” Khatami said in a video posted on social media on May 14. “With all the limitations, problems and high expectations, the government has served the revolution, the people and the country very well.” The prosecutor’s office reportedly warned campaign managers and media to remove the video from their websites and social media pages. Karroubi also said that he would vote for Rouhani, if he is allowed to vote, according to a May 15 report by Saham News. Mousavi’s daughter Narges said that her parents would vote for Rouhani. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is a well-known women’s rights activist and academic.
Iran's green movement leaders under house arrest, Mousavi & wife Rahnavard & Karrubi, endorse Rouhani in the upcoming Presidential election. pic.twitter.com/QxIY9RxRsq— Negar نگار (@NegarMortazavi) May 17, 2017
Rouhani’s supporters have worn purple, his campaign color, as well as green, the color of the opposition movement that grew out of the disputed 2009 election. Mousavi used green as his campaign color.
On social media, Iranians claimed that state television was using blue filter to obscure how many people at Rouhani’s rallies wore green.