A decade ago Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to be the nemesis of Israel. His questioning of the Holocaust and threats to Israel appeared perfectly timed to go along with Iran's nuclear threats. He was everything that was bad about the Iranian regime. But now he has been tempered by time. He wants to run for President but the Iranian regime may not let him.
He has changed his tune from the old days. Now he speaks about freedom and poses as an outsider man-of-the-people. He hosts discussions on Clubhouse and tens of thousands have tuned in. Iran International reports that Iranian law enforcement heads are warning candidates like him to be careful. The authorities "drew attention to some would-be candidates making claims illustrating 'nothing but treason' and showing they were 'servants and mercenaries' of foreign powers. The high-ranking police official's veiled references are likely to refer to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the reformist former minister Mostafa Tajzadeh."
Iran has had low turnout in recent elections. Ahmadinejad, if he is disqualified, could make them even lower. Elections are in June. The Guardian Council needs to approve all candidates. Some have hit the ground running already. According to Fereshteh Sadeghi "Ahmadinejad today went to a town near city of Qazvin. City officials had blocked the road to the town; cutting water, electricity and phone services for hours. He however walked part of the road, circumvented the obstacles and attended the gathering." He has been blocked from other cities, including Urmia. Other reports say that his flights have been mysteriously cancelled to stop him campaigning.
Ahmadinejad is remembered fondly by some for his populism and personal modesty.
The former president is remembered fondly by some for his loan programs and populism. He was often portrayed as personally modest and not corrupt. However that is disputed by reports going back to his second term in office and authorities have sought at times to put him under house arrest. A popular photo of him several years ago portrayed him as a modest villager. But he lived in Tehran in Narmak, according to reports. He is a professor at Iran University of Science and Technology in Tehran. He has a PhD from the university in civil engineering and transportation planning. He has apparently owned or used regularly a Macbook Air, a luxury item in Iran.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.