Six candidates approved by Iran's Guardian Council to run for June 28 Presidential election

Iran OKs Final Six Presidential Candidates, Rejects Key Figures

Sunday, 06/09/2024

Iran's interior ministry has announced the final list of six candidates approved by the Guardian Council to compete in the presidential election scheduled for June 28. 

The all male list consists of senior government figures such as hardliner Saeed Jalili who is Ali Khamenei's representative in the Supreme National Security Council, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the current Parliament Speaker and Masoud Pezeshkian, a 'reformist' parliamentarian.

Several high-profile figures were disqualified from running, including ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, and former Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri.

The pattern is similar to the 2021 election, when Ahmadinejad and Larijani were rejected and only a second-echelon 'moderate' candidate was allowed to run. The result was a low-turnout election when Ebrahim Raisi passed the line in the first round.

Some analysts in Iran have told the local media that the race now will most likely be between Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator and an opponent of an agreement with the West, and Ghalibaf who is considered a more flexible politician. In any case, the issue of relations with the West and the fate of Iran's nuclear program are under the purview of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Also selected to run is Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a former minister of justice and interior, Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a current Vice President, and another hardliner, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani. 

Jalili, 58, is making his third presidential bid, having been a significant figure in Iran's nuclear negotiation team and holding various senior positions within the ministry of foreign affairs. Jalili, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from Imam Sadiq University, is noted for his uncompromising conservative stance.

Former IRGC general Ghalibaf, 63, and the current Parliament Speaker, is known for his military and political experience.

The only reform leaning candidate, Pezeshkian, 69, has served as health minister and chancellor of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. He is also a trained cardiac surgeon, holding a medical degree from Tabriz University.

Pourmohammadi, 64, infamous for his role in the "Death Commission" during the 1980s, has been a polarizing figure due to his past actions as deputy intelligence minister.

Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 53, currently serving as Vice President, head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, and an ENT surgeon, has maintained a conservative stance throughout his political career, representing the Mashhad and Kalat electoral district in Parliament for several terms. He holds a medical degree from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences.

Mayor of Tehran, Zakani, 58, noted for his confrontational style and conservative views. holds a Ph.D. in nuclear medicine from Tehran University of Medical Sciences. He has been an outspoken critic of the nuclear deal and a key figure in the conservative camp supporting the crackdowns on women defying compulsory hijab.

The snap election follows the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi who died in a helicopter crash on May 19 along with his entourage.

The candidates' approval by the Guardian Council, a body of clerics known for its allegiance to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, highlights the clerical rulers' continued grip on power. The upcoming elections are expected to see record low participation as the population rejects the sham polls rigged by the country's theocratic dictator.

The disqualification of heavyweights such as outspoken Ahmadinejad and Larijani came with mixed reactions from among the public. Ahmadinejad was highly unlikely to get through, but many thought that Larijani, as a quiet insider, will make it to final stage considering Khamenei's comment after his "unfair disqualification" in 2021.

On the other hand, the 'reformists' must be somewhat disappointed as only one of their official candidates has his credentials approved, Iranian analyst and Iran International contributor Behruz Turani said. The only reform-minded candidate, Pezeshkian's chances to win the presidency is uncertain because of his ethnic voter base, something that Khamenei is known to detest.

The final battle will be among "revolutionary" Jalili, insider Ghalibaf, and ambitious Zakani, observers say. Khamenei sees no difference among them although he definitely does not like Jalili's link to the over-ambitious and ultra-hardliner Paydari party, Turani argued.

In view of the security situation in the post 2022 protests, Khamenei's ideal candidates are more likely Ghalibaf and Zakani, both experienced IRGC and Basij operatives with a proven track record of suppressing dissent.

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