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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Questions over health of Iranian president PDF Print E-mail
Written by Robert Tait, guardian.co.uk   
Saturday, 25 October 2008

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A string of cancelled events has sparked rumours Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be prevented from seeking re-election.

He is renowned for his long hours, hectic schedule and workaholic habits but the stress of high office may be taking its toll on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and jeopardising his political future.

Speculation about the hyperactive leader's health was prompted this week after a keynote speech to the state statistics and planning body was cancelled at the last minute and a cabinet meeting took place without him. A speech to a martyr's commemoration event was also called off. A senior aide, Amir Mansour Borghei, told journalists the president was "indisposed".

It has triggered rumours that Ahmadinejad, 52, is suffering from a long-term illness that may stop him running for re-election next year.

Shahab, the Iranian news website, reported that this week's events were the latest in a series of cancellations and said the president had previously pulled out of engagements because of listlessness caused by low blood pressure.

In May Ahmadinejad pulled out of events in three consecutive weeks, including a high-profile rally in Golestan province where he was due to meet voters face-to-face. Aides said he had an overcrowded schedule.

Citing "sources close to the government", Shahab said doctors had advised the president to cut his workload to reduce the possibility of illness. There is little sign he has heeded any such advice: yesterday's cancellation came after Ahmadinejad had returned to Tehran from a visit to the Asalouyeh oil and gas project in southern Iran.

The reports will be a blow to the pride of a leader who revels in his energetic style and is known for micro-managing government affairs.

They come at a time when Ahmadinejad is wrestling with acute political problems including near 30% inflation, rising unemployment, plummeting global oil prices, a market trader strike over plans to impose VAT and demands for the resignation of his interior minister, Ali Kordan, for falsely telling MPs he had an Oxford University degree.

More worrying is that the rumours appear to have given Ahmadinejad's critics a new stick to beat him with. Fellow hardliners in Iran's so-called principalist, or fundamentalist, camp are calling for the president to withdraw from the forthcoming presidential election unless doubts over his health are cleared up.

Issa Saharkhiz, an Iranian political analyst, said the reports could have been fanned by opponents, including the Tehran mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who are preparing to run against the president. "I'm not sure if these health problems are permanent or just a result of tiredness," Saharkhiz told the Guardian. "But some groups, mainly moderate conservatives, may be thinking that they have found a political solution for eliminating him from the nomination for the elections."

It is not the first time an Iranian political leader has been the subject of health speculation. Rumours have circulated for some time about the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is believed to have been treated for prostate cancer. Unfounded reports last year suggested he had died.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/23/ahmadinejad-iran-health



 
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