By Arash Farid, Tehran (Source: Mianeh)
It was during January 2008 that some of Iran's politicians showed up in Tehran's Saba Art Gallery, rubbing shoulders with art students, as they viewed the exhibition there. The gallery was displaying a collection of abstract paintings by Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former prime minister of Iran, who after his eight-year term ended in 1989, left politics and kept away for many years.
Now, a year after the exhibition, Mousavi is being tipped as a possible candidate for Iran's presidential election scheduled to take place on June 12.
On January 12, former president of the Islamic Republic Mohammad Khatami announced that either he or Mousavi would stand in the poll.
This is not the first time that Mousavi - the last prime minister of the Islamic Republic before a change to the constitution closed the post - has been mooted as a candidate of anti-conservative groups.
Three years ago, in the run-up to the presidential election which ended with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory, some reformers hoped he would stand.
However, the majority of Iranians remember Mousavi neither for his ultra-modern, abstract paintings nor for his reformist ideas.
He is better known among Iranians as the mastermind of a food rationing scheme, which he established while serving as prime minister during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.
His pseudo-socialist policies at this time allowed basic supplies to be distributed among the public - rich and poor, on an equal basis.
Mousavi, 67, served as prime minister of the Islamic Republic during the presidency of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - now Iran's spiritual leader and highest authority.
During Mousavi's premiership, Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was his main supporter.
His relations with Ayatollah Khamenei, meanwhile, often seemed rocky.
In 1981, when Khamenei became president after securing 16 million votes, he put forward former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati to parliament for the post of prime minister.
But parliamentary members, who were then mostly from the left-wing Islamic groups, did not accept this and, eventually, Mousavi was chosen instead.
Although he was previously in the same political camp as Khamenei - in the Islamic Republic Party - he immediately switched his loyalties to the opposite group and became a figurehead for the Islamic left movement in Iran.
Before the Islamic Republic's constitution was amended, the president's powers were extremely limited, and the prime minister made the most executive decisions.
Yet, apparently, following serious discords with the president, Mousavi decided to submit his resignation on a number of occasions.
After the death of Khomeini, revisions were made to the constitution which eliminated the office of prime minister.
Following this, Mousavi distanced himself from politics and concentrated mainly on teaching, painting and working as a chairman of the Iranian Academy of the Arts.
In a rare interview in the third week of January, Mousavi broke his 20-year silence to discuss his time in office.
The interview, which was published in the Kalameh website, appears to be an attempt by his supporters to revive and publicise his ideas.
In this, he referred to the numerous difficulties he had during his term in office, and also explained his political and economic views.
"During my term of office, oil revenues were extremely low. Japan had reduced the amount of oil it bought [from Iran] from 600,000 to less than 200,000 barrels," he said.
"Western European countries were also buying less oil... and thus in the very early days of the government, we were facing a serious currency crisis."
In the interview, he also discussed the economy, which he said had an especially "Islamic character".
According to him, in an Islamic economy, there is a special ethical code governing exchanges and dealings related to economic issues, which direct it towards a more just society.
As yet, Mousavi has not said in public that he would like to run for the presidency.
However, the more visible he becomes in the media and in political circles, the more likely it seems that he will put forward his candidacy.
As well as his food rationing scheme, Mousavi is well remembered for his economic policies during his time as prime minister.
Some young people believe he could use his skills to overcome some of the country's economic problems.
Iman, a 24-year-old economy student, told Mianeh that the country has been in crisis for 30 years, and needs some crisis management.
He said he believes that the Iran-Iraq war has never ended for Iranian citizens, who are still feeling its political and economic ramifications.
There have been varied reactions to Mousavi's potential candidacy among politicians.
Assadollah Badamchian, deputy of the Islamic Mutalifa Party, which has traditional right-leaning tendencies, said that Mousavi was an "anti-capitalist".
While Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an associate of Khatami during his term in office, has written in his weblog that Mousavi is "a shot in the dark" for the new generation.
Arash Farid is a pseudonym used by a journalist in Tehran.
This article is an abridged and translated version of the full original text published on the Farsi pages of Mianeh, with editorial adjustments agreed with the writer made to provide clarity for English-language readers.
About Mianeh: Mianeh is a new independent web-based initiative run as a project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (iwpr.net) the award-winning non-profit media development organisation that works across the globe to platform local voices and promote international learning and engagement. Mianeh aims to be an open space for ideas, news and debate where writers in Iran can reach out to each other as well as to those outside the country who are interested in learning more about the vibrant and dynamic society that is Iran today.
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