Supporters of a coalition of reformists and backers of President Hassan Rouhani held their first joint rally in Tehran as thousands of Iranian candidates on Thursday launched their election campaigns ahead of the country’s Feb. 26 parliamentary elections. Hundreds of demonstrators — men and women, young and old — gathered in a public hall in central Tehran, chanting “reforms will be the winner of the elections.” When the head of the coalition list in Tehran, Mohammad Reza Aref, and his wife arrived in the hall, cheerful participants welcomed him as if he were a presidential candidate.
Aref, who served as vice-president under reformist Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s president from 1997 until 2005, responded with a smile and raised a hand to the crowd.
“Viva reforms, long live Khatami,” the crowd chanted. Many at the rally held a turquoise ribbon, the official campaign color, in their hands.
Khatami, who is popular among young people and women, last week urged his supporters to vote even though the election watchdog, the Guardian Council, barred many prominent reformists from running in the election.
During the gathering, Elahe Koulaei, one of the female candidates, called the election a “second step” after the 2013 victory of Rouhani, a moderate within Iran’s political system.