Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s grandson to enter Iran politics


Hassan Khomeini has made himself unpopular wuith hardliners by suggesting his grandfather’s revolution was hijacked


Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

Hassan Khomeini, the moderate grandson of the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has decided to enter politics — a potential gamechanger in the already volatile power struggle to shape the future of Iran.

Mr Khomeini, a 43-year old cleric and football fan who is popular with young people, will next February run for the Experts Assembly, the body likely to determine who the next supreme leader will be. He will be the first member of the family of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to be involved directly in politics since the 1979 uprising.

After nearly a decade of isolation Iran has agreed a breakthrough deal with six world powers to wind back the country’s progress towards building a nuclear bomb in exchange for a sweeping reversal of international economic sanctions

Moderate forces are hoping for a strong victory in February’s 290-seat parliamentary race to ensure implementation of the nuclear accord and improve the chances of Mr Rouhani’s re-election in 2017. But the composition of the next Experts Assembly may prove more vital for Iran’s future. The 86 senior clerics in the assembly could name the successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 76-year-old supreme leader and ultimate decision maker, if he passes away during their eight-year tenure.

Mohammad-Sadegh Javadi-Hesar, a reformist politician, said: “If Mr Khomeini enters into the Experts Assembly as part of a minority, he may not be able to exert a lot of influence. But if he is part of a package of moderate forces such as [Mr] Rafsanjani who is also expected to run, then he can be of bigger influence.”

Mr Khomeini’s candidacy will be watched closely. His lineage makes it difficult to disqualify him but hardliners could try to weaken him by barring many moderate allies, analysts say.

Many Iranians remember photographs of him as a child — unusually blond as for an Iranian — standing next to his grandfather.

Mr Khomeini, who went to the Qom seminary when he was 17, has presented himself as a big fan of football, the most popular sport in Iran. Until now, his public profile has been largely limited to annual speeches on the anniversary of the death of his grandfather. In recent years, his speeches have been disrupted by hardliners. He has previously said that Iran’s youth misunderstand his grandfather’s aims and that his legacy should be revived.

Whatever else, reformists hope Mr Khomeini’s participation in the election will encourage turnout. Low numbers could favour hardliners whose supporters are more organised.

Mr Javadi-Hesar said: “Mr Khomeini will run as a bipartisan candidate and his name could tie the new generation of the Islamic Republic to the first generation. His involvement in politics revives hopes that a charismatic character may emerge.”

The Financial Times

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