I believe that the chances of Mohammad Khatami being allowed to run as a candidate are increasing. So much so that I would say it is now a viable possibility.
But why would Khamenei allow him to run? He made life very difficult for Khatami when he was president. Khamenei has always had a bad relationship with the reformists, so why would he even consider allowing Khatami to stand as a candidate?
In my opinion, it would be for the following reasons, in descending order:
- Reduce support for Esfandiyar Rahim Meshai. Between Meshai and Khatami, the former is far more dangerous as a possible destabilizing factor. Meshai’s slogan in the elections would be nationalistic slogans such as “Iranian – Islam” and calls for improved relations with other countries. After all Meshai did say that people of Israel are not the enemies of the people of Iran, something which Khamenei resented and denied publicly. As reformists also want better relations with the West, Khatami’s participation could dilute the attractiveness of Meshai’s messages to the middle class.
- Weaken the voice of those who want Rafsanjani to participate. Between Rafsanjani and Khatami, the former is a bigger threat and challenge to Khamenei’s nuclear and foreign policies. There are increasing number of voices who want Rafsanjani to participate as a “moderating force”. If Khatami is allowed to run, this could dilute the legitimacy of such calls as Khatami is known for wanting better relations with the West, more so than Rafsanjani.
- Could boost the legitimacy of the elections. No one is expecting these elections to be fair, especially not after the IRGC said they would be “engineered”. Nevertheless, it is in the interest of Khamenei that people turn out to vote. If Khatami is allowed to run (even though he is unlikely to be allowed to win) he could boost the legitimacy of the elections by increasing the number of genuine voters.
- Khatami is too much of an intellectual to challenge Khamenei. It would be easier for Khamenei to arrange cheatings against Khatami as unlike Mousavi, he is unlikely to call for recount or demonstrations once he loses (something which Khamenei is ultimately almost definitely going to ensure).
I would the chances of Khatami standing as a candidate are currently at 30%.
Last week they were 5%.