Much along the lines of Afshin Molavi's excellent post below, the exiled Iranian intellectual Faraj Sarkohi approaches Rafsanjani's appeal as a looking glass into the dynamics of Iranian political culture in this provocative piece on Qantara.de.
The money quotes:
"For the first time in the over 25 years of the Islamic Republic, none of the candidates for president, no matter from which wing, is able to put forward a platform capable of inspiring confidence and hope in a major portion of the population."
"Th[e] failure on the part of the religious reformist[s] has caused the project of realizing democracy within the scope of the Islamic constitution...to disappear into the annals of history."
"Now, the reformists are not only confronted with the disappointment of the people, which alone could spell their downfall at the presidential elections; they are also struggling with two additional obstacles: the lack of attractive concepts and of a popular figurehead."
"The most far-reaching program the reform parties can offer is the continuation of Khatami's reforms, which have long since run out of steam."
"Fully expecting the defeat of their ticket, some of the leading reformists are now putting their weight behind Rafsanjani. This group hopes that Rafsanjani will make use of his personal influence and power to prevent the unrestrained dominance of the fundamentalists in the executive branch of government, and to mitigate the fundamentalist hard line, at least with regard to the economy and international relations."
"Iran is plagued today by frequent urban unrest and strikes by workers, white-collar employees and students. Some branches of the military are dreaming of a putsch, while the majority of the people would be glad to witness the overthrow of the Islamic Republic."
"Rafsanjani, who believes in despotism in politics and liberalism for the economy, has gained a reputation among his countrymen for pragmatism, conspiratorial arrangements, the murder of dissidents, and an affinity for corruption. He enjoys the support of most Islamic technocrats and bureaucrats, as well as some of the fundamentalists and reformists."
As Sarkohi's article was written before the Guardian Council issued its decision to preclude the reform candidates from running, his points about the reform candidates might feel like beating a dead horse--or at least a badly wounded one. And yet somehow they remain thought-provoking and poignant.
In any case, the article is well worth reading--as is everything Qantara.de publishes on Iran.