Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a political campaign in hopes of returning to power in February's parliamentary elections, The Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday.
The report noted that while many former allies have turned on Ahmadinejad, and two of his former vice presidents have been jailed for corruption, he is believed to command strong support in the countryside, and could be seen by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a counterbalance to reformers who have tried to reverse Ahmadinejad's confrontational legacy since the election of President Hassan Rouhani.
At a gathering of his supporters Thursday, Ahmadinejad broke two years of silence, vowing to "redefine revolutionary ideals" laid out by the leader of Iran's 1979 revolution, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, according to AP.
"God willing, victory and a very bright future awaits us. However, there will be bumps and satanic obstacles in our path," he was quoted as having told some 400 supporters in Tehran. "One should not forget that the U.S. is our enemy."
Ahmadinejad remains popular among the rural poor because of his government's decision to provide monthly cash handouts after cutting food and energy subsidies, and because of his condemnation of capitalism and injustice.
During his presidency he received thousands of letters a day from ordinary Iranians, and earlier this week people lined up outside his Tehran residence to ask for assistance, a reflection of his populist touch, noted AP.
Many conservatives and hard-liners turned on Ahmadinejad in the latter years of his rule, but they could come to see him as a much-needed ally, fearing a repeat of the landslide victory in the 2000 elections by reformists committed to transforming the Islamic republic into a Western-style democracy, noted AP.
Conservative lawmaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, whose daughter is married to Khamenei's son, told the news agency the moderates are more interested in bringing back McDonald's restaurants than in countering the U.S.-backed and Saudi-led air campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen.
In February, Ahmadinejad launched an official website, as well as a Google+ page and an account on Instagram, in a signal that he was planning a return to politics.
Before that, the hardline conservative had mostly stayed out of the public eye since his mandate ended in June 2013. He did, however, challenge Rouhani to a public debate in late 2013, after Rouhani criticized his predecessor for the way he handled the economy.
Prior to leaving the presidency, Ahmadinejad said he prided himself on his denial of the Holocaust.