By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Will Mahmud Ahmadinejad (left) push the candidacy of his right-hand man and hand-picked successor, Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei?
On April 15 all eyes will be on Tehran's Azadi Stadium, where the Iranian government is reportedly planning to hold a large gathering.
Presidential deputy and the head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicraft Organization, Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, has been quoted as saying that the aim of the gathering is to thank the committee that facilitates travels inside Iran. He said the meeting, attended by senior officials, will be held with "greater glory" than previous years.
Malekzadeh was also quoted as saying that traditional music bands will perform at the event.
The timing of the event -- two months before the June 14 presidential vote -- its location at Tehran's Azadi Stadium, which has the capacity to hold 100,000 people, and its possible nationalistic dimension has led to speculation.
Some news sites have predicted that the event will mark the launch of the presidential campaign of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's right-hand man and hand-picked successor, Esfandiari Rahim Mashaei.
Several websites critical of Ahmadinejad and his close circle have said that "the leader of the deviant current" will have a speech at the gathering. "Deviant current" is a term used by opponents of Ahmadinejad to refer to his close circle, which they accuse of trying to sideline the clergy and promote an Iranian doctrine, instead of an Islamic one.
The Entekhab website says it has information that both Ahmadinejad and Mashaei will be speaking at the event, which the site describes as an "unofficial election meeting."
Entekhab says Ahmadinejad and Mashaei will not be speaking "clearly" about the June election, but that it has information that Ahmadinejad will do his best to heap praise on Mashaei.
"In recent weeks, unprecedented efforts have been made in trying to fill the stadium and it's been heard that anyone who attends the event will receive financial aid," the website claimed.
The report also said that the slogan "Viva Spring" will be used at the event. "Viva Spring," believed to be a campaign slogan, has been repeated by Ahmadinejad several times in recent weeks, leading to angry reactions from his opponents, who accuse him of trying to engineer the election and put his candidate in place.
In what appears to be a sign of defiance, Ahmadinejad was last week quoted as saying that "no one can prevent spring from coming."
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