In the 2013 presidential election, conservatives were still divided — to the benefit of Reformists and moderates. Hard-liners and Ahmadinejad’s men dominated the coservative camp. Thus, the conservatives, hopeless about persuading Nategh-Nuri to lead them, asked Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, then chairman of the Assembly of Experts, to direct them — but his efforts didn’t bear any fruit. Mahdavi Kani’s efforts to avoid splitting the conservative vote failed.
Meanwhile, Nategh-Nuri, along with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami, decided to back moderate Hassan Rouhani in the election, with an outcome that shocked hard-liners. Mahdavi Kani passed away the following year, once again leaving the conservatives without a figurehead.
Ever since, and with key parliamentary elections approaching, conservatives have been doing their best to persuade Nategh-Nuri to step into the fray. So far, Nategh-Nuri has refused all requests for his leadership and candidacy, saying, “I’ve passed it, and it is now the youngsters’ turn.” Indeed, as long as the conservative camp is dominated by hard-liners, it appears unlikely that Nategh-Nuri will return to his old home.
Some influential Reformist figures have approached Nategh-Nuri in the hopes of him aiding them in the parliamentary elections by nominating himself as their top candidate. This scenario is, however, improbable as Nategh-Nuri is unlikely to entirely turn his back to his conservative roots. Hossein Kanani Moghaddam, a conservative political analyst, told Al-Monitor, “Nategh-Nuri won’t accept the Reformists’ requests.”
Other recent reports separately speak of a decision by Nategh-Nuri to back Larijani in the parliamentary elections. According to these reports, he has reportedly been engaging with high-ranking figures, including grand ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom, to get them to state their support for Larijani — both behind closed doors and in public.