By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
The luxury automobile of Iranian ex-President and current presidential hopeful Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is once again the focus of hard-line attention in connection with next month's vote.
As we reported last week, such websites recently posted compare-and-contrast-style images of Rafsanjani's bright blue Mercedes next to the Kia subcompact of another presidential hopeful, top nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, after the two registered almost simultaneously for the vote. Jalili's model, a Pride, is among the most common of cars in Iran and has a decidedly working-class image attached to it.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati
On May 17, hard-line cleric Ahmad Jannati, the chairman of the powerful Guardians Council that vets all election candidates, said without naming Rafsanjani that the country's next president should lead a simple life. He added that such a man (for female candidates appear to be excluded) shouldn't ride around in a Mercedes.
"He must lead a simple life. He should start with himself -- if his clothing is simple, his house is simple, his furniture is simple, he can expect others to have a simple life. In other words, he can't go around in a Mercedes, have such a house and furniture, and expect people to live modestly," Jannati said during his Friday Prayers sermon in the capital, Tehran.
The montage photo showing Jalili's Pride (left) and Rafsanjani's Mercedes
He also said that the president should have management skills, fight corruption, and take a stand against "sedition," a term that hard-liners use to refer to the mass street protests against the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and the resulting Green opposition movement.
Modesty is considered a virtue among Iranian leaders, who all claim to lead very simple lives.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also said that the country's president should be a man of the people who leads a modest life.
The Guardians Council is expected to announce the final list of approved presidential candidates on May 21. Council member Ayatollah Mohammad Momen has suggested that the body might approve more than 10 of the 686 individuals who registered to run in the June 14 vote.
The 78-year-old Rafsanjani has come under fire by hard-liners over his criticism of the 2009 postelection crackdown.
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