Washington briefing: Iran’s president faces strong electoral challenge

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday June 05, 2009

Incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, debating presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, right.
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Washington - Early expectations that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would easily win reelection in voting on June 12 have now been replaced with those of a close race with a former prime minister, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, with the outcome likely to be decided in a runoff election.

According to media reports, the two candidates launched into personal attacks as they debated one another on live television on June 3. The debate became so heated that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, reportedly intervened to halt it.

Mr. Mousavi was prime minister between 1981 and 1989, during the years of war with Iraq. He has criticized Mr. Ahmadinejad for doing a disservice to Iran as president. Mr. Mousavi is backed by Mr. Ahmadinejad's predecessor Mohammad Khatami, who was president between 1997 and 2005.

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