"Protests by influential merchants broke out in several cities last week, posing an economic and political challenge to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad before a 2009 presidential election in the world's fourth-largest oil producer.
"It was the first time bazaar traders had closed their shops on such a scale since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when they played a key role in ousting the U.S.-backed shah.
"In the face of the protests, the president on October 10 suspended for two months the 3 percent value added tax that came into force late last month. But Iranian media said shop owners wanted it scrapped altogether and Tehran's sprawling bazaar was virtually closed on October 12."
The merchant class has never been on good terms with Ahmadinejad, and went largely for Rafsanjani during the 2005 presidential run-off.