You are here

Iran’s high-stakes election

Jun 06,2024 - Last updated at Jun 06,2024

Dozens of candidates have registered to run in Iran’s special election scheduled for June 28 to replace President Ebrahim Raisi who died in a helicopter crash last month. Iranian law dictates that candidates must be between 40 and 75 years old, possess at least master’s degree, and have four years of experience in state administration and similar employment.

Applications were received from last Thursday until Monday this week. Many applicants were rejected because they did not qualify for consideration.

The field is still not clear because candidates who have passed the first hurdle have to be reviewed by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council, which decides on all candidates for election and governmental posts. The council will announce its decisions on June 11 when campaigning can begin. If there is no winner on the 28 there will be a run-off on July 5.

Accepted candidates have two weeks to campaign, present their programmes, and take part in televised debates. It is significant that some who registered are high-profile figures from reformist and centrist camps although most are members of the dominant conservative camp.

Ahead of the 2021 election, the Guardian Council disqualified all but conservatives who were not regarded as a threat to Raisi, who was the choice of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate decider on all matters. However, the elimination of competition led to the lowest ever turn-out in that election with only 48.8 per cent of registered voters casting ballots, of which 13 per cent were spoiled. During the 2017 presidential poll, turnout was 73 per cent. Participation had never before fallen below 59 per cent and was generally in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

This lesson combined with discontent over the poor performance of the economy, high unemployment and the crack down on protests could undermine the legitimacy of the clerical system. Aware that this is at stake, Khamenei — eulogising on the 35th anniversary of his death Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini the founder of the Islamic Republic — called for an “epic” turn-out.

Countrywide demonstrations erupted in September 2022, in response to the death in the custody of morality police of Mahsa Amini after her arrest for, allegedly, failing to wear her headscarf (hijab) as mandated by law. The unrest drew in workers demanding better pay, all classes protesting inflation and corruption, and women resentful over the clerics’ insistence on the hijab. The slogan adopted at the time was, “Woman, Life, Freedom”.

Among the first to enter the race was conservative Saeed Jalili, head of Iran’s top security agency and former negotiator on the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. Jalili stood in 2021 but pulled out to back Raisi. Jalili appears to enjoy the support of members of the government of the late Raisi.

Jalili could, however, be overshadowed by Mohammad Baqher Ghalibaf, a senior conservative figure who was re-elected as speaker of the parliament last week and could have the support of the conservative establishment.

Vahid Haghanian, a former commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Council, is seen as another conservative challenger. He has claimed to be qualified as he had served for 45 years in the presidency and the leader’s office. He is close the Khamenei’s son Mojtaba, who aspires to succeed his father as supreme leader.

Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an ultra-conservative, is expected to be disqualified as he was in 2021.

Although the Guardian Council has excluded women from the top elective post, among the hopefuls is conservative Zohreh Elahian, a former member of parliament who is among the first women to run for the presidency. She said her slogan would be: “Healthy government, healthy economy and healthy society”. Three other women who formerly served in parliament have registered, according to The Tehran Times official English daily.

The reformist umbrella grouping has not extended support to the centrists and reformists who have put themselves forward.

Ex-Majlis speaker Ali Larijani is seen as the standard bearer of the centrist faction although he began his career as a conservative. Currently a member of the Expediency Council which mediates disputes, he was disqualified in 2021. While speaker, Larijani steered through parliament the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

This was seen as a means to normalise relations between Iran and the region and the West and to maintain the reformist grip on Iran’s presidency. Larijani was expected to succeed reformist president Hassan Rouhani until 2018 when Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and slapped 1,500 sanctions on Iran. Trump contributed to Raisi’s victory.

Ahead of the campaign, Larijani has pledged to deal with the punitive sanctions regime which is harming Iran’s economy.

Reformist Abdolnaser Hemmati, a former central bank governor, is said to have no chance to win.

The Tehran Times wrote, “This election represents a critical juncture for Iran, offering an opportunity to redefine its domestic and international policies and address complex challenges, such as economic sanctions and regional tensions.”

43 users have voted.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.