On June 14, Iranians will go to the polls to elect their next president. While the world watches to see what course the next Iranian government will take, we at the RAC thought that it might be helpful to break down the Iranian election in advance of the vote.
While the president of a country is generally regarded as the most important figurehead of the country he or she governs, Iran does not fit this generalization. In Iran, power rests with the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei. In addition to controlling the country’s media and appointing the head of the judiciary and leaders of Iran’s armed forces, the Ayatollah is responsible for appointing half of the 12-member Guardian Council. The Guardian Council exercises a veto right over any legislation and, importantly, is responsible for vetting and approving all presidential candidates.
Although the Guardian Council has not yet announced its list of approved candidates (which will be shortened from the nearly 700 that declared their candidacy), the main presidential contenders are relatively clear. According to a Guardian Council ruling, we should not expect to see any women among the contenders, as they are outlawed from running for office by the Iranian constitution.
The list of likely candidates can be broken into three camps. Camp 1 (indeed the only camp with multiple contenders) is comprised of the Supreme Leader’s picks. These include the Iranian Speaker of Parliament, the Mayor of Tehran, a senior advisor to the Ayatollah on international affairs, and the chief nuclear negotiator of Iran. Camp 2 is held down by one man, Esfrandir Rahim Mashaie. Mashaie is President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff. President Ahmadinejad is currently under fire for illegally accompanying Mashaie to register his candidacy. Under Iranian law, Ahmadinejad could face up to 74 lashes of 6 months in prison. Whether or not he will be held accountable for such an infraction remains to be seen. Camp 3, another singular outpost, is represented by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. A late entry into the race, Rafsanjani, who serves as President from 1989 to 1997, and lost his bid for a third (disconnected) term to Ahmadinejad in 2005.
New reports from Iran indicate that the Guardian Council is disqualifying both Mashaie and Rafsanjani, leaving only the Ayatollah’s picks as major contenders.
While the Iranian election is very much focused on domestic issues, the international community is eager to see if Iran’s next president will be a more formidable diplomatic partner than President Ahmadinejad has been, potentially improving nuclear negotiations with the West and their relationship with Israel. Stay tuned to RACblog as we closely follow the election.
Image courtesy of Salem-News.