Familiar candidates pegged for Iran's snap presidential election

Familiar candidates pegged for Iran's snap presidential election
Former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, excluded from the last Iranian president election, is a front runner in upcoming vote on June 28. / CC: Tasnim News Agency
By bne Tehran bureau May 26, 2024

As the registration for Iran's presidential elections opens on May 30 and closes on June 3, early projections and speculations about potential candidates are circulating widely, with some previously excluded people in front running.

Following the death of Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials close to the northern border with Azerbaijan on May 19 in a helicopter crash, several people have now indicated whether they will register in person at Tehran’s Interior Ministry—including several familiar names. Unlike several countries, Iran’s presidential election is heavily throttled, with the Guardian Council weeding out any potential non-aligned individuals, including women, who are automatically banned on gender. people with less than a master’s degree also need not apply to the role, previously this was a doctorate.

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has decided against running for the presidency, Iranian analysts write. Instead, he is focusing on retaining his position as Speaker, which seems likely unless unforeseen circumstances arise where he is forced by the powers behind the scenes to stand.

Former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has received implicit approval from the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to run for president. Larijani is currently evaluating his position and has reportedly secured the support of former President Hassan Rouhani. If elected, his cabinet is expected to include former Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as Foreign Minister and Kamal Kharrazi as Supreme National Security Council Secretary.

Ultra-hardliner Saeed Jalili has confirmed his candidacy, solidifying his position as a key contender. However, he remains deeply unpopular with many groups in Iran due to his cold nature and lack of charisma.

In a turn of events, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is considering running but is aware that the Guardian Council will unlikely approve his candidacy. He remains in the evaluation phase and all eyes will be on the Interior Ministry in the Dr Fatemi Square area of the city in the next few days.

Tehran’s Mayor Alireza Zakani has announced his intention to run, although his chances are low. His candidacy will likely split the ultra-hardliner vote, similar to Roads Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash, who began preparations during President Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral.

Acting President Mohammad Mokhber, currently preoccupied with his official duties, is seriously contemplating a run. If he decides to enter the race, his cabinet would largely mirror Raisi’s administration, with key figures like Foreign Minister Bagheri Khani expected to remain.

Mohsen Rezaei, Raisi’s economic advisor and a perennial candidate, is running again despite having little chance of success. His inclusion in elections has become a running joke in recent elections, along with a cohort of other potential candidates who always appear on the ballot.

Parviz Fattah, head of the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Orders Headquarters, is another potential candidate. Fattah could present significant competition to Larijani and Jalili.

From the reformist camp, Mohammad Reza Aref, Vice President under ex-president Mohammad Khatami, is expected to run but may withdraw in favour of Larijani. Similarly, Es'haq Jahangiri, Vice President under Hassan Rouhani, will likely announce his candidacy soon. However, his chances are slim with that group currently under a media embargo on national television, according to reports out of the country following Raisi’s funeral which cut out sections of Rouhani speaking.

Current Science Minister Mohammad Ali Zolfigol also announced he would not stand for the presidency, saying, “I am not fit to stand for president” in comments to the press on May 26. In 2022, Zolfigol had four of his research publications retracted by the Royal Society of Chemistry because of concerns regarding the authenticity of chemicals used in the published studies and the reproducibility of the experiments.

Most recently, reformist MP Masoud Pezeshkian has declared his intention to run, although he is not expected to be a serious contender.

The main competition is shaping up to be between Larijani, Jalili, Mokhber, and Fattah. However, with the registration deadline on June 3, potential candidates still have time to manoeuvre and lobby, meaning the final lineup could see significant changes.

For further updates, stay tuned as the registration period progresses. Subscribe to our Iran service