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TEHERAN - Iranian voters are more accustomed to hearing their politicians chant “Death to America” — but ahead of next week’s presidential election the issue of relations with the US has been turned on its head. It is an ironic shift for the Islamic republic, founded on the dogma of resisting “Zionist-American conspiracies” and priding itself on standing up to the “Great Satan." But, as one Iranian analyst pointed out, “for most Iranians the breaking off of relations with the United States is the main cause of their problems, and many people want to give their next president a mandate to finally resolve the issue”. Iran’s regime has tried but failed to stem public calls for reconciliation, most recently in 2002 when it jailed a group of opinion pollsters who published a shock survey saying that three-quarters of the population wanted to see dialogue with the United States resume.
Payvand's Iran News: Iranian Clerics Face A Presidential Dilemma
The Iranian constitution requires that the president be a "religious-political individual" (rejal-i mazhabi-siasi), but this does not mean the president must be a cleric. Indeed, only two clerics won approval as candidates in the presidential race.
The big concern for the conservative clerical community is that having so many candidates undermines the image of unity. On election day, furthermore, there is the fear that no single candidate will secure enough votes for a clear cut victory, and in the subsequent second round the clerics' favorite could lose.
With a little more than two weeks remaining before the election, Iran's clerical community is not sure whom it will endorse.