On Tuesday, May 25, Iran’s interior ministry released the final list of candidates for the upcoming 13th presidential elections scheduled on June 18. The list has seven names approved by the country’s constitutional Guardian Council.
The 12-member Guardian Council headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected 585 other nominations, including current first vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the current advisor of the Supreme Leader and former speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani.
The seven approved candidates are Saeed Jalili, Sayyed Ebrahim Raeisi, Mohsen Rezaei, Alireza Zakani, Seyyed Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, Abdolnasser Hemmati and Mohsen Mehr Alizadeh.
Raeisi, the head of the Iranian judiciary, is considered to be the front runner in the elections. He belongs to the “principalist camp” (conservative group) in Iranian politics. Hemmati, who currently heads the Iranian Central Bank, is viewed as the main reformist candidate. Alizadeh, a former vice-president under the presidency of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), is another major reformist candidate.
Most of the other approved candidates belong to the conservative camp, which has led to speculation of a decline in popular interest.
Concerns over popular participation and competitiveness
Both Raeisi and incumbent president Hassan Rouhani had expressed concerns over the lack of representation from the reformist camp, and had urged the Guardian Council before the list was finalized to allow more candidates to make the elections more “competitive”. Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Rouhani said that elections are not only about choosing a president, but also guaranteeing the legitimacy of the political system. He “wished there would be more nominees vetted to secure the competitive essence of the elections,” Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Following the publication of the results, Raeisi tweeted that he is trying to contact high officials in the Guardian Council to allow more candidates to make the elections competitive and promote the popular turnout, Iranian PressTv reported.
In a controversial move, the Guardian Council had announced certain crucial changes in the qualification criteria which affected the chances of most of the reformist candidates. These include having no criminal records and a minimum four years of executive leadership experience. According to the new rules, only people aged between 40 and 75 are eligible to contest the elections.
The approved candidates are expected to start their election campaign, which will go on until June 16.
The Iranian presidential elections are taking place at a time when crucial indirect negotiations are going on in Vienna with the US regarding the ending of sanctions and the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated during Rouhani’s term and led to the ending of decades-long international sanctions on Iran. However, since US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal and the re-imposition of US sanctions in 2018, conservatives have been critical of the deal. A possible new conservative president after June may take a harder line on the nuclear issue than the present dispensation headed by Rouhani. This can complicate the process of revival of the deal.