Candidates for the presidency of Iran: who are they?

A heart surgeon, a former mayor of Tehran and a cleric implicated in the execution of political prisoners are among six candidates approved by authorities to run in Iran's elections on Friday to replace the president who died in a helicopter crash last month.

The candidates have renounced the hijab requirement in Iran. They have addressed U.S. sanctions that have contributed to the country's economic crisis and have openly criticized the government during a series of debates, an unusual move in Iranian politics. However, voter apathy in the country is high and divisions among conservative leaders make the outcome difficult to predict.

Although Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has final authority over major state matters, the president sets domestic policy and can influence foreign policy.

Iran's Guardian Council, a committee of 12 jurists and clerics, narrowed its initial list of 80 presidential candidates to six, disqualifying seven women, a former president and several other government officials. Four candidates are still running.

Two of the candidates – Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi and Alireza Zakani – dropped out of the race to consolidate the conservative vote. If no candidate wins a majority on Friday, a runoff between the top two winners will be held on July 5.

An Iranian state television poll before the election showed reformist candidate Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian leading with about 23 percent of the vote. The conservative vote was split between Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf and Saeed Jalili, who each had about 16 percent. They all fell short of the 50 percent majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Here's what to know about the four presidential candidates still in the running.

Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf is the current speaker of the Parliament and former mayor of the Iranian capital, Tehran. The retired pilot and commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has repeatedly run for president without success.

He is also known for his role in the government's violent crackdown on students, first in 1999 and then in 2003, when he was the country's police chief and reportedly told authorities to fire live ammunition at students.

Mr. Ghalibaf has faced accusations of financial corruption during his tenure as mayor of Tehran and of moral hypocrisy over his family's lavish spending abroad. He denied the accusations.

Reportedly close to Khamenei, the conservative politician campaigned on a promise to reduce government inefficiency and criticized the government for losing money by ineffectively addressing oil sanctions.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, an expert on Iran and dean of the College of Arts, Sciences and Education at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said Mr. Ghalibaf had attempted to characterize himself as the “establishment candidate,” on the side of the elite during the debates, positioning himself as the only one with the experience and ability to lead.

The only reformist candidate on the ballot, Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian is a heart surgeon and Iran-Iraq War veteran who served in parliament and as Iran's health minister. After his wife and son died in a car crash, he raised his other children as a single father and never remarried. That and his identity as an Azeri, one of Iran's ethnic minorities, endeared him to many voters.

Reformist candidates were largely disqualified from the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections in March. Experts say that Dr. Pezeshkian was likely included to increase turnout among Reform Party voters and Iranians who boycotted March's parliamentary elections. The government believes that high voter turnout is crucial to the perceived legitimacy of the elections.

Dr. Pezeshkian has received the support of former President Mohammad Khatami and has declared himself open to nuclear negotiations with the West, framing the debate as an economic issue.

Saeed Jalili is a former ultraconservative nuclear negotiator nicknamed “the living martyr” after losing a leg in the Iran-Iraq war. He leads the far-right Paydari party and represents the country's most uncompromising ideological views on domestic and foreign policy.

Mr. Jalili has said he believes Iran does not need to negotiate with the United States for economic success. Although he is probably the closest candidate to Mr. Khamenei, he presents a “totally unrealistic” assessment of Iran’s economic capabilities to the public, Mr. Boroujerdi said.

“He is categorically opposed not only to any nuclear deal, but also to any kind of opening to the West,” Boroujerdi said.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi is the only cleric who is running in these elections. A former director of counterintelligence, he was a member of the committee that oversaw the execution of thousands of political prisoners at Evin prison in 1988. He downplayed his role in the executions.

Frank and clear, he said during a debate that Iran's biggest problem is that the government has lost the support of the people and is unable to stimulate participation in elections.

Mr Pourmohammadi criticized Iran's support for Russia during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, saying his country was not deriving sufficient benefits from supplying weapons to the Kremlin.

He also invoked former President Donald J. Trump in his campaign. “You just wait and see what happens when Trump comes,” he said during a recent televised debate. “We need to get ready for negotiations.”

In one of Mr. Pourmohammadi's campaign posters, he and Mr. Trump stand face to face, staring at each other. “The person who can stand in front of Trump is me,” he reads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *