Presidential candidates Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (left), Saeed Jalili (center) and Massoud Pezeshkian

Three Candidates Dominate Iran’s Presidential Elections

Monday, 06/17/2024

A week after the start of the election campaign in Iran, almost no one speaks about three of the five hardliner candidates: Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, and former Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi.

Nearly all of the official and unofficial polls are about the election chances of the other three: Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Member of Parliament Massoud Pezeshkian and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Hadline lawmaker Amir Hossein Sabeti mentioned the results of a poll last week by an undisclosed government agency in a post on the social media platform X. This poll has shown that ultraconservative Jalili has a 23 percent chance to get elected as Iran's next President while Ghalibaf has a 21 percent and Pezeshkian has a 13 percent chance.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Iranian journalist Maryam Shokrani on her Instagram page, among a statistical sample of 3,374 users, some 88 percent of Instagram users have said that they are not going to vote in the presidential election.

Another poll she conducted on her X account with a sample of 6,433 users, some 73.99 percent have said they are not going to vote. These results are close to the figure that has leaked from the incumbent government, a legacy of former President Ebrahim Raisi's administration which puts the number of those who say they are not willing to vote at a sharp 80 percent.

Government polling agencies in Iran include those that belong to the Culture Ministry, Intelligence Ministry, Interior Ministry, the state television and major government-owned news agencies such as IRNA and ISNA. Results are usually confidential and not released to the public unless politically expedient.

Some social media users have questioned the validity of the poll about the chances of the three candidates. One wrote a long series of 16 posts on X to prove that between Jalili and Ghalibaf, the former has a chance of more than 80 percent to be the forerunner.

The Iranian press have their own ways of assessing the candidates' chances while being cautious about revealing what they know. The government has been arresting journalists and harassing the media, pressuring them to report a welcoming but otherwise uneventful election. Authorities seem wary of any reports that convey a sense of competition or the extent of support for individual candidates.

At the same time, the smear campaigns previously seen in Iranian media during past elections have now shifted to social media. Users, writing under aliases to avoid repression, are engaging in these attacks.

Meanwhile, the IRGC that has been a key player in the controversial elections since 2005, sent its spokesperson out last week to insist that the Revolutionary Guard will not interfere in the election in any way. Ramazan Sharif said that the IRGC will not take part in any activity in support or against any candidate.

However, none of those figures and statements can be relied upon. The Iranian media and politicians have proven that they have no notion of accuracy when using figures. As an example, ultraconservative candidate Jalili has said that "he is going to compensate several centuries of Iran's backwardness in a matter of a few years." Meanwhile, over the past years, he and other hardliners have regularly praised the Islamic Republic for turning Iran into an advanced country.

Social media user Darius who quoted the statement, said "One who thinks several centuries of backwardness can be compensated for in a few years, is an disillusioned and errant individual who needs to be hospitalized.

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