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Known for years as a mild-mannered cleric, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has reinvented himself as a rabble-rousing political street fighter to shore up his chances in an unexpectedly tight race against a united conservative bloc.
Axar.az reports citing Reuters.
A pragmatist rather than a gung-ho reformer, Rouhani has tried to fire up the pro-reform camp with speeches that break taboos by targeting Iran's hardline elite, from the conservative judiciary to the powerful Revolutionary Guards.
Rouhani's rival is cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has gathered the hardline camp behind him and appears to have the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Rouhani says a hardline victory could put Iran on a more confrontational course with the West, and would prevent the opening of society that a majority of Iranians, especially the youth, yearn to see.
"You want to limit people's freedom. Voters will confront you in the election. We have chosen our path, the path to freedom. We will not retreat," Rouhani said in a campaign rally.
He has openly criticized the human rights record of the authorities, speaking at rallies about "those who cut out tongues and sewed mouths shut". In a debate last week he accused Raisi of seeking to "abuse religion for power".
All this is a departure from a man known for decades as a loyal member of the Iranian ruling establishment.
"Rouhani is a regime insider. He is loyal to the establishment. He is not a reformist but a bridge between hardliners and reformists," said a former senior official.
2017.05.18 / 20:35