On May 15, Seyed Mohammad Khatami, (pictured right),the former Reformist president (1997-2005) who is considered to be one of the most popular figures in Iran, released a video message urging people to cast their votes and support Rouhani.
Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, (pictured left), a moderate conservative, has also stepped forward to back Rouhani publicly. On May 16, Nouri, who is currently the head of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Inspection Office, also called on people to vote for Rouhani and declared him to be the most fit among the presidential candidates.
These three prominent figures have effectively formed a trio in an attempt to fill the void left by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president who died in January. Rafsanjani enjoyed great political influence and was the main supporter of Rouhani, who was considered to be his protege. The trio appears to be trying to persuade the so-called “gray voters” to cast their ballots. In the Iranian political lexicon, “gray voters” are those who usually don’t vote but swing votes whenever they do participate in elections — such as in 2013, when Rouhani was elected.
Neither Nategh Nouri nor Khomeini explicitly and publicly backed Rouhani when Rafsanjani was alive. Their decision to do so now will most likely help the incumbent among conservative and religious voters.
Rohollah Faghini of Iran Pulse contributed this article to Al Monitor