DUBAI – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday praised a reformist predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, for helping reformists and moderates to triumph in February elections, defying a media ban on any mention of the ex-leader who championed detente with the West.
Rouhani and his allies made big gains in Feb. 26 elections to parliament and a clerical body that will elect the next Supreme Leader, though the conservative Islamic establishment retains decisive power in the country. Like Khatami before him, Rouhani faces stiff resistance from conservative hardliners to his efforts to open up Iran to the outside world
and to push for political and social reforms. Iran’s media are banned from publishing the name or images of Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005. But Khatami, still one of Iran’s most popular politicians, managed to publish a five-minute video on social media before last month’s elections that are credited with swinging the balance in favor of the reformists and moderates backing Rouhani. “No one can silence those who served the nation,” Rouhani told a crowd on Monday in Khatami’s home city of Yazd in central Iran, referring to the former president as his “dear brother”.